The College Admissions Office

How Does the College Admissions Office Make Decisions?

Ask admission officers at different colleges how they select their students and you may get some very different answers. Some larger state universities simply run student figures (SAT, GPA, rank in class) through a formula to determine the bulk of students they will accept. Other colleges, particularly smaller ones, read and re-read every application carefully. Some schools place real value on the essay and interview, some on the strength of courses, still others on a student’s personal qualities. Finding out how the colleges on your list make decisions can help you determine your chances for admission as well as show you which areas you should emphasize in your application to a particular college.  You may be interested in reading the following book for a detailed and entertaining look into the college admissions procedures: The College Admissions Mystique

What Happens after the College Receives Your Application?

Welcome into the college admissions office of Boston University as we reveal to you what really goes on in here. What happens when we receive your application?

Let us say that you decide to apply to Boston University. Our application review process begins when we receive the first piece of your application package. That may be your scores for the SAT I, ACT, or SAT II.  It might be a letter of recommendation, a transcript, or the Boston University application itself.  This event sets off a chain of reactions that will ultimately result in our making a decision on your application.

Upon receiving any part of your application, we create a folder for you. We also update your computer file through a process known as “keying,” performed by people known as “keyers.” For the most part, only quantitative information is entered into the computer.  We read the remainder of the information directly from the application itself.

At a point not long after our recommended application filing date (January 15), we will inform you of any missing ingredients in your application package. Once your file is complete, one of the keyers will generate a “review sheet,” which is a summary of data (name, address, social security number, high school, grades, test scores, and other “vital statistics”). The review sheet is packaged with your application and is forwarded to one of the assistant directors of admissions (ADs). The AD’s job of recommending whether you should be admitted to Boston University is not always easy. Their task begins with recalculating grade point average, because different high schools use

scales for determining GPAs. ADs recalculate using a single method that takes into account only the “five academic solids”: English, math, social science, natural science, and foreign language.

The ADs will then analyze your GPA based on the difficulty of your high school curriculum.  The ADs prefer applicants whose high school curricula are challenging.

After they have successfully exited the GPA maze, the ADs will scrutinize teacher and guidance counsellor recommendations, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and other information.

Finally, your essay comes up to the plate. While always significant, the essay plays the greater role in applications that are “on the fence”. If, based on your grades, scores, and activities, the AD is not certain of your “admissibility”, the quality of your essay may be the determining factor. ADs generally view the essay as an opportunity to see how applicants organize and present their ideas, and to gain a sense of their personalities.

After weighting all the factors, if an AD is still too unsure about an applicant to make a decision or recommendation on admission, the application is put into “committee.”

A committee is a discussion group of members of the Board of Admissions. Members of a committee together consider an applicant’s merits and, we hope, reach a consensus on whether to offer him or her admission. In those infrequent instances when the committee is a “hung jury,” the director of admissions or a senior associate director will be called in to render the verdict.

This seemingly interminable process usually reaches its zenith in mid- March, when the first batches of decision letters are mailed.

Your Level of Interest in a College Can Impact Whether You are Accepted

Deciding whether to accept a student into a college is a serious matter, and boards of admissions must be extremely diligent in their decision-making processes.

In an ideal world, we would like each student to be admitted to the school of his or her dreams. In a real world, we know that some of you may not.

Even if you have outstanding credentials, you may not be offered admission by all the colleges to which you apply. The most highly selective colleges deny far more students than they accept, with several now accepting fewer than 12% of their applicants. Some may factor in your level of interest, which they ascertain by whether you have visited, interviewed, or remained in contact with the school throughout the admission process.

As demographics in the United States are changing, there will be fewer new college-aid students till 2016.  This means there will be less competition at many of the less selective colleges.  With the “common application” being accepted by about 500 colleges and universities, it also makes it easier for students to apply for a large number of colleges without being genuinely interested in attending them all.

Featured Video: Behind the Scenes at the College Admissions Office at Brandeis University