"Students Get Admitted By Accident," And 22 Other Secrets And Stories From College Admissions Officers
"You might wanna avoid cliché 'waking up in the morning on an influential day' analogies in your personal essay."
1. "I worked in admissions at a Top 30 school in the US. I once saw a student get preemptively rejected for sending in loose glitter with her interview thank you note (not maliciously, just festively)."
"Of course, the glitter got EVERYWHERE, the custodian was pissed, and my boss came to yell at us all. When we pointed out that it came in the mail, he told us to pull her file and reject her then and there. It was considered 'bad judgment,' and he never wanted to deal with this person on campus."
2. "Students get admitted by accident. Unless it’s a really severe mistake, they probably will keep their admission."
3. "The more you visit a college before going there, the lower your scholarship may be."
"When colleges call to your house or survey you, they will often ask how many times you have visited campus. This is to gauge how interested you are in attending the school. If you have come 3, 4, or even 5+ times, they will know you are very interested and offer a lower scholarship because they feel you will come no matter what. That being said, a good amount of times to visit campus is about 1–2. You don't want to seem disinterested, but you don't want to sound overly interested. If you end up attending 3-4 times and they ask what number visit it is for you, always say it is your second time (unless they obviously know otherwise). This is just a simple tip to get a good scholarship going into school that very few people know or even think about."
4. "Helicopter parents were the absolute worst. You aren’t helping your child by calling the school, and in fact, the student not making any effort on their own behalf will work against them as an applicant."
5. "You might wanna avoid cliché 'waking up in the morning on an influential day' analogies in your personal essay."
"I talked with an admissions person, and she said that a ton of people start their essays with some sort of 'waking up in the morning' on some really influential day analogy. She said it gets really boring to read, and if you're going to open with describing a particular event, just start with the interesting bit. None of this 'When I woke up that fine December morning, I never dreamed that today was the day I would rescue six people from a car wreck and discover the cure for colon cancer and win the national chess tournament with two broken arms' stuff."
6. "Do your research. Is the school you want to attend accredited? Do you know what it takes to start your desired career? I can't tell you how many times I heard someone who wants to be a psychologist and then they freak out when I tell them they will more than likely need a master's degree or above, PLUS a license."
7. "Depending on the school, you actually have a better chance of being admitted as an out-of-state student."
"As an out-of-state student, your tuition will generally be much higher, generating more profit for the school over the 4+ years you attend, allowing the university to reach certain budget goals. That being said, if money is not an option, applying to an out-of-state school is one way to get into 'better' universities that you might not be accepted into as an in-state student."
8. "We had a dad once who, no word of a lie, called EVERY DAY about his daughter. She qualified for the waitlist, but no one wanted to have to take her dad's calls every day, so she got rejected in the hopes that he'd move on."
9. "We adjust your GPA based on a difficulty ranking we have for your high school."
"If you go to a school with a high ranking and you have moderate grades, you will be considered differently than a student with great grades at a low-tier school."
10. "There is a lot we can’t tell parents once your kid is 18. It’s AGAINST THE LAW for us to tell you anything other than to confirm their enrollment. Can’t tell you grades, what classes they’re in, whether they’re attending classes. If your kid isn’t talking to you and sharing that information with you, that’s your problem with them."
11. "Just telling your sob story in your college essay isn't going to cut it."
"I used to babysit for an admissions officer, and she let me read a bunch of scholarship applications essays one time. Long story short, there are lots of inspirational, 'I-turned-my-disability-into-a-blessing' essays that are designed to make admissions people feel especially sympathetic with the applicant. If you're going to take this route in your admissions essay, you better do it in such a way that it really stands out. Just writing a sob story about being an amputee or cancer survivor isn't going to cut it. There are lots of people like you out there, and they all want scholarships."
12. "Regarding affirmative action, if your parents did not attend college, or if you are a male applying to liberal arts colleges, you get a boost in college admissions. On the flip side, girls really only have an advantage when applying to engineering-focused schools."
13. "Listing 20,000 extracurriculars on your application doesn't help as much as you'd expect."
"If we see this, we automatically assume you are someone who tries to play the game, but you just spread yourself thin and take nothing seriously. Many colleges actually prefer to see people who focus and follow through on one or two non-academic activities."
14. "It really is about who you know."
"Legacy students (many generations attended the school) would always get accepted. Sometimes people with great test scores and grades would not be admitted for no good reason."
15. "My aunt works in admissions at a very selective school. The process is split between two groups of workers there: grunt workers who weed out under-qualified students (and who look for certain red flags in essays, like plagiarism and poor spelling/grammar), and the admissions counselors who actually read through the apps that got through the first round."
16. "Admission Appeals is where the pleading comes in. It only happened a few times, but some appeals would be received with money stapled, which would simply be returned to applicant."
17. "Some applicants would send the most unnecessary materials to the school in hopes of making them stand out."
"One person emailed a 45-minute video of their Model UN conference, which I couldn’t even upload to their record and I knew no one would even look at. Another person sent their skydiving certification card??? So kids, really think about the mature thing to do when applying to college, not just trying to stand apart from the crowd!"
18. "Athletes get held to a way lower standard when it comes to admissions requirements. To be fair, they also get access to a lot more resources for success than the average kid."
19. "One thing that’s really important to know is that at schools with really low acceptance rates, probably 50%–60% of the applicants are equally qualified, and only 5%–10% will be admitted."
"Once you’ve reached the bar of 'qualified,' it entirely depends on who else applies since they want to have a lot of diversity in skills, interests, majors, backgrounds, etc. It also depends on things like what the person reading your application had for breakfast that morning and whether they’re fighting with their girlfriend. All you can do is make sure you’re qualified and that your application is as representative of you as possible, but rejections really shouldn’t be taken personally because at some point, they’re totally random and out of your control."
20. "I worked at a top university in Scotland, and the amount of bribes I had been offered or the ‘do you know who I am/I’m a friend of so-and-so’ spat at me was ridiculous."
21. "We don't look all that closely at your personal statements, so I wouldn't sweat it."
"Normally, the department will tell us a couple of things they want applicants to have included in it (such as your work experience and your future aspirations), and we'll just scan it to make sure those things are mentioned. It's kinda sad 'cause I know that people will have spent hours working on it, and we normally don't even read it all the way through."
22. "When I worked in admissions, we placed a lot of importance on class rank."
"If your dream school still requires the SAT or ACT, those scores matter. Your essays don't matter much, truthfully; it's about proving you can write at a reasonable level more than anything. Most likely, there were more qualified students than available spots, and you lost out for some arbitrary reason that has nothing to do with your ability to succeed or contribute at that or any other campus. You have what it takes; the numbers just weren't on your side in this case."
23. And lastly: "Be nice to us. We can and will — I have! — withdraw an offer made to you if you repeatedly swear or make derogatory comments at us. We don’t want assholes in our university!"
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.