The Decision

The Decision

With more than 4,000 applicants for 490 spots, Colby's Admissions Office finds a way to decide who gets in

By Alicia Nemiccolo MacLeay '97 | Photos by Fred Field

With admissions officers paying such careful attention to each applicant,interviewing students in person, taking applications home at night and on weekends, reading personal essays on everything from the death of a parent to the most inspiring teacher,do they ever feel an emotional attachment to certain students who've pinned their college hopes on Colby?

#intense932#right#75%#When Becky Downing first began interviewing applicants she remembers thinking each was the best ever. "Everyone would laugh at me," she said. "Over time you start to have a different perception of which students really stand out and which ones are doing great things, but there may be a lot of students in the applicant pool who have done those great things."

Of course, most applicants don't get in. Do admissions officers ever feel even a hint of sadness or guilt when they deny a student what may be their first-choice college?

"So often I'll write 'perfectly capable wonderful kid, but not at the top of the pool,'" said Thomas, who has read some riveting stories from international applicants. In one example, an African refugee saw his family killed and set on fire when he was 12 years old and managed to escape and succeed in school. "He was a great success story of what he'd done, but he wasn't ready for this academically," Thomas said. "So those kinds, especially if you meet the person, that's very difficult."

But while Thomas acknowledges that sometimes it's sad to reject a student, the choice is usually clear. "In the end, my job is to pick the best kids for Colby," he said.

And for the kids who aren't picked, there really is no recourse. Sometimes Thomas, who signs most of the rejection letters, and his colleagues will hear from students Colby has denied. "I know every question, every angle they're going to work," he said. "We've never once changed a decision."

Usually students want to know what they did wrong. "And it's like, 'You didn't do anything wrong. It's a matter of competition,'" Thomas said.

Competition is stiff, but for the successful applicants,and the College,the results make all the hard work worthwhile.

"When I meet up with my friends who are Colby alums and classmates they're always so interested to hear what the new kids look like and what the applications look like and are they really as strong as they say," said Downing. "It's pretty neat to be able to report back and say, 'they're getting better and better.'"
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