How Students Really Get Admitted to College

Time to get together the transcripts and the test scores, and put the final touches on those personal essays. It’s college application season, again.

To a lot of students, the process seems wrapped in a shroud of mystery. What exactly happens when you send your application out into the unknown only to … wait.

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Well, here’s a glimpse behind the curtain at one school:

Inside a tiny conference room at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, the admissions committee is preparing to review 23 applications. The committee will spend about two minutes on each before deciding whether to accept or deny admission, or place the application on hold.

To speed things along, the committee uses a lot of jargon, like “L-B-B” for late blooming boy, and “R-J” for rejection.

If it sounds as if they’re cutting corners, know that before the committee meets around the table, each application gets a close look from two of the members.

Then it’s condensed into a single one-page profile. The one for this student says he comes off just a bit arrogant in his essay and interview:

“Academically he has everything. I wonder if a counselor call might be enlightening?” asks one member of the committee.

“It sounds like maybe he could work on it and be cognizant of it. I mean, he’s strong academically,” says another.

A third member chimes in, chuckling, “I think his classmates could bring him down to reality.”

Ann McDermott is director of admissions at Holy Cross. “You have 13 people in a full committee room and 13 different perspectives, so it can go any different way,” she says.

And you hear from a lot of applicants at schools across the country that the admissions process can be frustrating. Disappointed applicants complain that when it comes to discerning between hundreds of students who seem to have the grades, teacher recommendations, and test scores, the process comes down to luck.

Read more at NPR.