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Why Students Matter to Admissions Officers

It’s that time of year. Seniors have received their admissions offers, juniors are gearing up for their senior year and applying to college, and freshmen and sophomores are preparing to end the school year strong. It’s a season full of possibilities. 

As students think about college, whether that’s deciding where to enroll, where to apply, or where to start the college visit journey, it’s also a great time to keep in mind that those admissions offers that you’ve received and the programs you’ve attended—virtual and in-person—didn’t come from an algorithm or a robot. Behind every one of those decisions, visits, and events is an admissions officer who has chosen this career because they believe in you. They believe in your potential, your perspective, and your ability to change the world for the better. 

As someone who spent a decade reading applications at a top college, I know how exhausted and exhilarated admissions officers feel at this time of year. They have given up weekend plans, reading books, spending time with family, doing dishes and laundry (yes, that shirt does have a coffee stain on it, thank you!), and their eyesight to get to know the applicants in their pool. They have read dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of files each day as they collectively shaped the next class. At the same time, they are planning to celebrate and welcome their newly admitted class as well as juniors, sophomores, and freshmen to the college search process. 

So, why would you exist on fast food, delivery pizza, and caffeine for months on end? It’s easy: Admissions officers see in students all the hope and potential to change the world, and it is a privilege that these same students place their trust in us to read their application, to support their application process, and to help them determine if their school is a place they can thrive. Admissions officers, too, want to make a difference. The altruism of the work feeds the desire to contribute to the common good, to make a difference in someone’s life, and to add value to their communities. They see that hope and potential in every file they open, every interview they conduct, and every high school they visit.  

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The work of recruiting, reading applications, and shaping a class isn’t a passive act. It takes intellectualism and emotion to give back to each student what they deserve: their very best. Admissions officers know the responsibility they hold is personal. It’s personal to you, and it’s personal to them. Students have put their heart and soul into choosing where to apply and writing these twenty or so pages of the Common Application. They have done the research and chosen carefully the teachers they asked to write on their behalf. They have made edits to their application over and over and over. They have been vulnerable and optimistic in their essays.

Admissions officers owe students the same care and attention in the time they have to read their application or deliver an information session. It doesn’t mean that every college is right for every student or the outcome is what the student wants it to be. But when I interviewed students, gave information sessions, or read applications, I started every single one excited to find out who that person was and to think about how they would contribute to our community.

RELATED READING: The Hidden Factors That Influence Who Gets In

Applying to college is challenging, but it is an act of hope. Knowing that there’s a human being on the other end of that process who brings optimism and care to each application can alleviate some of the understandable stress that applicants feel as they send their Common App off into the void. Getting to know students as the people who will make an impact on this world is a humbling experience. And it was one that I knew deserved my whole self. I felt privileged to be a small part of their journey. 

A former colleague used to say that students and families hold two out of the three decisions in college admissions in their hands: where they will apply and where they will attend. For those of you who haven’t yet made up your mind about where to apply or where to attend, know that we understand deeply how challenging it is to choose. Before you say yes to that school or submit that application or visit that college, take a minute to celebrate all the decisions, big and small, that have gotten you here because making this next choice will be your first decision of everything that comes next.