Random College Admissions

EMILY: Every child that applies has the same high grade point average, they’ve taken the same AP classes, and they’re all on the student council … One college admissions officer said that he sometimes puts a random stack of applications in the yes pile and the rest in the no pile because he knows it doesn’t make any difference. He doesn’t even so much as glance at them.

It’s true that it’s very difficult to tell apart applications from high-achieving students who’ve all been to Ivy League feeder schools and all got the same grades in the same classes. And a college admissions officer only has a few minutes to decide whether an application should go on the yes or no pile. It’s a hard decision to make in a very competitive Ivy League college environment.

However, like Lorelai, I find it hard to believe this story – most of all, I find it hard to believe in a college admissions officer who would openly admit to this practice in a print publication. I think Emily must have got over-excited, and what they really said was something like, “Sometimes it seems as if I might as well choose the applications randomly when they are all so similar”. Or else the magazine just made it up.

College admissions officers certainly admit that it’s a tough decision to make, and that they don’t always make the right choice – many of them have stories about rejecting a candidate who didn’t seem quite good enough, and then they went on to become something amazing. (They also remember the times they had to grit their teeth and let in terrible candidates because they were on athletics scholarships or had bought their way in). In any case, the final decision is made by a committee, it isn’t just one person deciding who gets in.

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