Monday, March 14, 2016

Behind the Admissions Curtain

What three hours in Holy Cross’s admissions decision room taught me

by Erik Ormberg

On Friday, March 4th I had the privilege, along with two of my colleagues, to spend a few hours with Drew Carter, a senior admissions representative, during committee decision meetings at Holy Cross. Without question this was one of the most impressive professional developments I have attended as a high school guidance counselor.

After a quick tour we met with Drew in his office so he could explain what we would be seeing. In the room there are two large screens projecting vital information on each applicant. The screen on the left was a program that compiled the following items:
  • GPA
  • Number of AP courses taken and offered by the school
  • Number of honors courses taken and offered by the school
  • Quotes from admissions representative regarding interview or essay
  • Quotes from counselor recommendation
  • Quotes from teacher recommendation
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • A numerical grade, 1-9, judging the student ACADEMICALLY.
On the screen on the right information was brought up for a closer look. In the time we were in the room and about 30 or 40 decisions were made the following items were brought up on the screen:
  • The essay written by the student.
  • The number of pieces of information the student had submitted.
  • Whether or not the student visited the school or contacted via email or phone.
  • The counselor recommendation letter.
  • A hand-written note by a 92 year-old woman supporting a student’s application to HC.
  • Student transcripts
  • Updated term one or semester one grades.
  • A google map to locate where the high school was located.
  • A school profile.
  • A school’s website.
The committee flew through these decisions. Kids were put into the following categories:
  • DENY
  • BIN (a holding place where they will look at the students again).
Since each student’s application is read by two people the meat of the work has been done and now the committee is reviewing. The room was part air-traffic control room and part of an episode of Celebrity Apprentice. The biggest takeaway was the room was not all about statistics. There was humanity present among these nine people making a decision. And this is only the first step, kids still need to apply for aid, be assigned rooms, make the decision to attend. This is only one step in the process.

The stories and statistics were amazing. Each student brought something to the table that each counselor fought for or against. We saw examples of poor writing, we saw a kid who had huge issues at home overcome his poor academics as a sophomore to the point he was getting A’s in all high end courses senior year.

Statistically speaking Holy Cross shared with us that they get:
  • Over 7000 applications (All read twice by two different counselors).
  • They admit 2200.
  • Their freshmen class is in the neighborhood of 740.
  • They balance male and female.
  • They actually invite around 780 on campus for August knowing forty or so will go elsewhere due to trickling waitlist decisions. (At the time we attended Holy Cross they had 650 students on their waitlist.)
It was a dizzying three hours, but an extremely educational time as well. I think it is safe to say that most kids at Holy Cross have done A and B work in a large number of honors and AP courses. It is clear to me that good writing speaks volumes about a student’s chances. It is also clear that when the STUDENT contacts the school it is noted and held in a positive light. Senior year grades were paramount in some of the decisions being made which proves to me that the myth that says, “junior year is the only year that counts” is exactly that...a myth.

No comments:

Post a Comment