We Looked Inside Yale’s Admissions Files And Found How They Talk About Applicants

If you thought it was kinda BS, you were right.

1. Have you ever wondered what exactly happens when admissions officers look at your file, and what actually helps you get in to college? BuzzFeed News found out.

2. This is Molly Hensley-Clancy, BuzzFeed education reporter and Yale grad.

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3. Molly got to see all the admissions files Yale had kept on her, thanks to the rules of the Family Education Rights Privacy Act, before they were destroyed by most colleges.

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She went to the basement of Yale Admissions and read a manila folder that held what had previously been ~~a mystery.~~

4. In the file, Molly found her high school career, personality, and achievements boiled down to a series of numbers, a set of bullet points, and a paragraph.

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5. Some of the decision-making process seemed a little disjointed. One admissions officer liked her more than the other.

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Molly saw wildly different reads on the same information.

6. Although in retrospect, Molly and the admissions officer were both in agreement that her admissions essay was cheesy.

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7. In the comments in her file, Molly saw that the admissions officers were looking for a specific kind of person, one whose role on campus could be predictable.

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The officers thought she would be a “high-impact writer on campus,” and she was.

8. Here’s where it gets kinda messed up. Molly comes from a big inner-city public high school, where the majority of the student body is nonwhite and many students are low-income.

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9. Molly was one of the few students chosen from the Minneapolis public school district to attend Yale. However, Molly doesn’t fit with any of those identity markers.

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10. She is white, not low income, and her parents both went to college.

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11. She was chosen to represent a 35,000-student school district — but she’s not representative of the student body.

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12. The other student in her district who got in to Yale the same year was also white, middle class, and the child of educated parents, and so was the student who was accepted two years later.

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13. Studies have found that there are big structural problems and biases in elite college admissions that mean it is more difficult for low-income students to get into some of the country’s best schools.

14. “If you come from a low-income high school, your school might only offer a few AP courses, you might not be able to afford a SAT tutor, and you might be working instead of applying for awards.”

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“There’s a lot of really smart poor kids who worked really hard in high school and could do really well at these schools, and they don’t get in,” Molly said.

15. “I got in partly because I was smart, partly because I’m really lucky, and artly because I did a good job playing that admissions game and selling myself. But I also learned that I partly got in because of where I came from. And that was kinda bullshit.”

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16. This piece was inspired and informed by Molly’s original reporting, which can be found here.

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