What You Should Know About the People Who Read College Applications

Do you ever wonder about the people who read college applications?

Pixabay user jsoto

Ever wonder who exactly is reading your college application, what makes them tick and what they want to see on your application?  You may have a met a few people who read college applications or admissions officers, perhaps at a college fair, a high school visit, or maybe a campus visit, but what if you haven’t?  Here are some insights into who they are:

  • They are professionals, many with advanced degrees in a variety of fields (some may actually be professors!).
  • They are not impressed with reading fancy, overly formal “dictionary” words when common words will do. It’s not necessary to use a thesaurus when writing your essays.
  • They want to see some reflection and maturity in your application. They want to know you understand that college is an opportunity for growth and not just an extension of high school.
  • They are not making judgments about your political or religious views. Unless you are applying to a college with a specific worldview that would be reflected among the staff (e.g. a religious affiliation), most admissions officers are fairly open-minded and are attempting to bring together a class with diverse views.  On the other hand, being deliberately offensive or holding views that would be reasonably deemed to be harmful to others is likely to work against you.
  • They are not impressed with letters of recommendation name-dropping famous or influential people if these people haven’t genuinely worked with you in some capacity. Your parents’ friends or business acquaintances don’t matter to them.
  • A fairly high number of them represent their own alma maters, so they are very familiar with the school and have firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be a student there. This is an advantage when deciding what kind of an applicant “fits” at the college.
  • They spend a great deal of time getting to know high schools in the regions they travel in so they can read your application in the context of your school and community. They strive to build strong relationships with school counselors who advocate for their students in the admissions process.
  • They must read thousands of applications per season, and often become very stressed over making decisions they know will have a huge emotional impact on students. They don’t take this responsibility lightly and read every application with empathy.  Most of them look for a reason to admit, not deny.  The more you sound as if you genuinely want to attend the school, the more they’ll want to find a place for you.
  • They often interact with undergrads on activities of all kinds, which also helps to keep them in tune with campus life, making them better representatives when they are meeting with you. If you have an unusual interest that makes you stand out or idea for a new student group, they are likely to want to have that added to the campus life, so make sure to mention it in your application!

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