In theory, we are supposed to have finished all of our application reading responsibilities. In reality, there are still a few left to complete, but the big boxes in the back room are mostly empty now. The process shifts to committee and financial aid evaluation, a change of pace and the final push before we send the decision letters. www.insidecolby.com
So what opens these gates to some students, while others are left outside? How do we make those decisions?
First of all, there is a lot of material in each application. The process of matching all the pieces and getting them into the right folder is mostly done in the early weeks of January, but in truth, some credentials are inevitably misplaced (usually misfiled) or never arrive in the first place, so even at this late date we are still chasing a set of test scores here, a Colby Supplement there. Once the application is complete, it will be seen by at least three pairs of eyes. The first reader is someone who randomly chooses the file; the second reader is the staff member responsible for the geographic territory where the student’s school is located; and the third person is Parker Beverage, our Dean of Admissions, who will have seen all 4,677 first year applications before the letters are mailed.
Most of us read the file in a specific order, beginning with the application itself, the Colby Supplement, and the four student writing responses: the Meaningful Activity, the Personal Essay, the “Why Colby?,” and the Supplemental Essay. Then we go to the School Report, usually beginning with the counselor’s recommendation. Next, I always read the Teacher Recommendations, and finally I have a look at the academic record (transcript) and test scores.
We then arrive at two ratings for the applicant: one for academics and the other known as the personal rating. For academics, we look carefully at the breadth and rigor of courses selected by the student and the grades earned. This is where the SAT-I or ACT scores come in as well. The personal rating is based on how the student spends time outside of the classroom, particularly extracurricular activities and interests, jobs, summer experiences, family responsibilities, etc. Colby is a small, very active community, and we want to include students who have developed a variety of interests in and out of the classroom, and who like to be actively engaged in the life of the college, whether it’s involvement in one of the many musical ensembles, student government, athletics, publications, spiritual groups, or any number of other things.
Finally, taking all those factors into consideration, we arrive at one of several decisions. There are a number of applications that are clearly in one of two categories: admit or deny. Many, though, are not as clear. In those cases, we might recommend a place on the wait list, possibly a mid-year admit with the option of the first semester at our programs in France or Spain (see the blog entry entitled “Rounding Second and New Faces”), or something called Swim, which basically means that more information is needed before a decision is made. Of course the first two readers may not agree on the decision, and that is where the Admissions Committee and Dean Beverage come in. We all have our favorites, and it’s tough when one of those students is not offered admission. But the fact is that there are many more qualified students than we can accommodate, so the decisions are often very difficult. Frankly, it’s exhausting.
So now we’re nearing the end. The work that remains includes hammering out those difficult decisions, and then evaluating financial aid applications by our dedicated financial aid staff who are doing a HUGE amount of work right now.
Once those processes are complete, there are letters to print, proof-read and sign, envelopes to stuff, and postage to attach. Finally at the end of the month, our postman will back his truck up to the back door of Lunder House and we’ll help load the boxes, then applaud as he closes the door and drives away.
When the letter arrives, you can be sure that whether that envelope is thick or thin, a great deal of attention has been paid to your application by a lot of folks in Lunder House.