Notes from Book: Who Gets In and Why by Jeffrey J. Selingo

Notes from Book: Who Gets In and Why by Jeffrey J. Selingo

Mar 9, 2021 08:06 PM
Admission Hacks
Inside the Admission
Created By
Context for this book: This is a book written on undergraduate admissions by Jeffrey J. Selingo who sat with the admission officers from Emory, Davidson, and University of Washington while they reviewed applications.
  • [Emory] Someone else in the room pulls up the applicant’s midyear grades. They are all As. While the student lists neuroscience as a major, “there is no example of neuro in the file" in terms of activities or in the essays, the admissions officer says. She suggests they move the applicant to the waitlist.
  • Female applicants along with black and Latino students are likelier to have higher GPAs and lower test scores. Meanwhile, students—especially boys—who come from families making more than $100,000 and whose parents have graduate degrees are likelier to have lower GPAs and higher SAT scores (it’s been well-established that SAT scores are highly correlated with family wealth).
  • Next up is an international student who goes to high school in the United States. Though it doesn’t do so for domestic students, Davidson does consider financial need when admitting international students. The applicant can only contribute $3,000 toward Davidson’s $66,000 price tag. Although the admissions officer responsible for international recruiting calls the applicant “impressive,” she’s too expensive. She is moved to the wait list.
  • Later on, Mike arrives at an application he had reviewed the previous night. In the Common App’s ten spaces for activities, the senior provides details on two in particular: she’s an instructor for an outdoor ropes course and a teacher’s assistant in a summer class at school. The admissions officers around the table appreciate that the applicant took the time to explain her activities rather than rush through that section like so many students do.
  • The school counselor also mentions the girl’s two activities in the recommendation letter. It’s a rare moment when counselor and applicant are aligned—providing insight, however brief, into the specific passions and mind-set of a teenager in a process that often draws a blurry picture of an applicant. “She is totally unflappable,” the counselor wrote about the student. The recommendation went on to describe how the senior rallied her classmates during a class trip where everything went wrong. “A real glue girl,” someone says. The applicant is marked as an admit.
  • Most colleges are forgoing revenue in one category—tuition—to use those resources in another—financial aid. As Zucker explained, the math is quite simple: instead of giving a $60,000 full ride to a poor or middle-income student and yielding one undergraduate, colleges split that scholarship into four $15,000 discounts that are offered to four wealthier kids who can bring some money to the table.
  • Before you hit Submit on the application, think: What do I want this document to tell someone who doesn’t know me and will have only a few minutes to review it?
Optional Read

  • Around midmorning, Kortni presents the case of a girl from New England. The applicant has high academic ratings. She took both AP and IB classes at a competitive high school. While this applicant is near the top of her class, Kortni has some concerns about her list of activities. “It’s hard to suss out what she cares about,” Kortni says. “There’s a lot of member, member, member, and not a lot of leadership.” The group agrees to mark her as a TA (tentative admit) for now. She will get another look the following week when the full committee meets (where she is moved to the wait list and eventually goes elsewhere).
  • [Application Review of Emory] Scott calls out an identification number and the pair pulls up their first read of the day. The application Scott is looking at has been transformed into a set of tabs on the left side of the screen, one for each significant piece of the file, such as the Common Application, transcripts, and recommendations. The opening page is full of key statistics on the applicant, boiled down to the most important numbers like those on the back of a baseball card.