Colleges Ask Applicants For More While Reading Applications Less

“It still seems like a cheat to insist that students do more and more to qualify for admission while paring evaluations to a bare minimum for the benefit of the admission staff … My response to all those put-upon staffers: Boo-hoo. If you feel overwhelmed during reading season, you should realize it comes with the territory.” …

From the article:
More recently, a Wall Street Journal article boiled it all down to this headline: “Some Elite College Review an Application in 8 Minutes (or Less).”

Just … wow.

Shhhh, the Essay Consultants don’t want this news getting out.

This is the inevitable consequence of ranking obsession by colleges and applicants alike. Colleges want more applicants so they can show lower acceptance rates, while applicants have to apply to more top-ranked colleges to compensate for the lower acceptance rates and improve their odds of getting into at least one of them. The vicious cycle continues every year with no end in sight. At this pace, no college would have adequate resource to properly evaluate each of its applicants and the quality of its class would have to suffer as a result. We have ourselves to blame for this state of affairs because we’re still obsessed with USNWR and similar rankings.

40000 applications x 8 minutes/application => 5333 hours

If an admission officer was to read for 10 hours every day it would take 533 days.
So if an admissions office has 20 people reading and not doing ANYTHING else it would take them ~27 days altogether.

So 8 minutes is really generous. I imagine they probably don’t spend more than 2 minutes.

This entire process is really unnecessary. Kids don’t want to write these essays and admission officers clearly don’t want to read them. What a humongous waste of time.

It depends on the school. Some schools read the essays very carefully and by more than one reader. Each school is different.

@pantha33m , I guarantee if you are applying to a college like Stanford and you submit four terrible essays, they will notice. You will not get in, barring being hooked. The. Most selective colleges will read the essay and will care about it.

@Lindagaf They will read your essays IF they get to them - if your grades and scores are higher than whatever big data-sorting algorithm the school uses to eliminate the thousands of applicants with zero chance. And if you have that level of achievement I doubt very much your essays will be “terrible”.

I find this article whiny and entitled. Boo hoo. That is life. How much do you think an employer will spend on your child’s resume and cover letter? Not more than a couple minutes max. Does it mean that you shouldn’t put in hours and hours to make it as perfect as it can be? Of course not. Same goes for college applications.

Just how much “easier” do you think it should be for applicants? Lol. A kid is applying to a top college, tens of thousands of candidates, and either puts forth a good app/supp or not. It’s on him. High school performance is zero prediction this will be done well. Absolutely, you can produce top grades in hs, run some club, and still produce a poor overall presentation, including writing. Or more. And yes, experienced readers, same folks who’ve been reviewing the good and the not good, can spot this. It’s a competition.

But 8 minutes, while it catches attention in yet another media article, doesn’t reflect what the kids with solidly done apps get. And a dual simultaneous read (stats and qualitatives) allows more immediate conversation. Plus it’s first read or first cut. Not the only review. If you don’t like being up against tens of thousands of other great kids, if it’s too much, vote with your feet.

Notice this author refers to his experience in the 90’s. He’s one of those “counselors” purporting to have some inside view. Oh yeah right, pay him.

As acceptance rates at elite colleges continue to drop, applicants have to apply to more and more colleges to increase the odds of acceptance, unless they’re accepted in the EA/ED round. How much time do we expect each applicant to spend on his/her application, if s/he has to apply to a dozen or more colleges (there’s a thread of applicants applying to 30+ colleges)? And that number will only increase year after year. And you can’t blame the applicants. There’s something seriously wrong with the current process. Colleges with holistic review process won’t have the resources to read the applications either (many public universities with large number of applications have either never started or have given up on the holistic reviews). College application is also not akin to a job application. In college application, an applicant can only apply to a very limited number of colleges, because s/he can’t send more or less the same application to each college. Almost every highly selective private college wants the applicant to write something (sometimes a lot) specific to that college. Why do they do that? Because each of them is concerned about yield. They want the applicant to show them s/he really wants to go to their colleges and would attend if accepted.

They don’t have to apply to more and more, not when it means 16-20 or more. They do need- especially when they want a top college- to understand what matters, versus what’s high school glory. This is about what the college wants to see, not what makes the high school staff happy. Not writing out a brag sheet for the people who’ve known you 3.5 years. It’s a competition, (a contest of sorts. Adult strangers reviewing you for their school.) Of course, you need to be on your game.

They need to be able to see and show their match. That’s not as simple as filling out the lines and thinking, Presto!, they’re done. The process of learning and thinking should start well before they ever pull up the Common App (or other.) And if they don’t have time for this, it’s not on the colleges to simplify or drop holistic.

It’s not all about yield. Sometimes, I think that’s the simplistic “them vs us” answer. An applicant interested enough to apply should know how they match and why they want this target, beyond that it’s a top college or they have your program or you want xxx future career. They should have some idea what matters to that college, beyond grades, scores, rank, and a few activities. It’s not “yield” to expect Johnny or Mary has taken a deep look and thought carefully. Not when thoudands of other kids have done this and are in the same line.

To me, that’s part of applying to a highly competitive college, if you can’t do it, you revise your goals.

And yes, adcoms know what their colleges like and want. If it’s not there, an additional hour perusing the app/supp won’t work any magic.

A few years ago when there were only around 50,000 applications at UMich, they had 50-60 readers according to a news article interviewing the adcom.

Guess your essay’s first sentence has got to be a good one.

Since the colleges charge application fees, why aren’t those fees used to hire more readers?

I think this was pointed out in an earlier post in this thread, but the colleges probably “weed out” 1/4 to 1/3 (??) of the applicants based on grades and scores. Those might get rejected right away or their essays might get a quick skim while the more qualified and realistic candidates would get well over the “8 minute average”.
Just a guess.

At UMich around 10% of application got screened by the first readers and they proceed with around 90% of them.

The key idea of the article is that students are asked to do more, like EC, portfolios, stuffs that requires lots of time and dedication, and then the admission people just are overwhelmed with so many applicants, they just do not have enough time on reading all the stuffs.

I think it is unfair to students and their parents. As parents, we spent time as well, then for what?

If I am asked to read 60 applications per day, I might be able to concentrate on the material for the first couple of hours, then as the day goes, there is no way I am going to read as well as the first couple of hours. There is scientific study on this, an individual’s concentration level drops as the day goes. So luck will become important, if your application gets reviewed around 9:30 am, and if you are above average, you might just get in. Then if your application gets reviewed around 4:30pm, good luck if the material does not get thrown in the garbage can with slight weakness.

I think it is time for creative application evaluation. Schools should “Never Send Human to Do A Machine’s Job”. Lots of the application material could be machine-evaluated, GPA, SAT/ACT etc. ECs can be ranked, reference letters can be evaluated for its Positiveness using machine learning techniques, even Essays could be ranked. Overall, with AI, each application could be ranked as belonging to Top 30%, Mid 40%, and bottom 30%. Then admission officers could just concentrate on the Mid 40% of the applicants, and actually have time to do it.

No way I’d want a machine picking- it’s bad enough many employers use robo screening and those who don’t know the right lingo, the key words it’s programmed to look for, or set-up have no chance. The humans I know are reading about 5 apps/hour. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Obviously, first cut is quicker; kids either have the basics or not.

Too many people think getting into a top college is just…like…doing well in high school. Not. It’s not a transfer to another hs or 13th grade. It’s the college leap. The more competitive a college you want, the more savvy it takes. And you aren’t trying to impress the hs folks who already know you and presumably like you. Now you’re up against adult strangers and competing against a vast pool of accomplished kids.

You don’t need “extra” ECs, just the right balance. You don’t need to submit a portfolio. You don’t need to win endless competitions or run a long list of clubs. But they do like to see activation at a high level. Easy: Rise to the challenge or, if it’s too much, apply elsewhere, maybe a few rack and stack colleges that don’t review holistically.

What I find really appalling is that some highly selective colleges (UChicago, CWRU, for example) are still soliciting more applications (via aggressive marketing, waived application fees, dubious and misleading EA, etc.) to improve their rankings while spending little to no time on vast majority of these applications.

What makes you think the vast majority are truly qualified? The mailings are an invitation to explore the college, not a promise that all you need to do is be on track to graduate hs and have done well. You still need to show your match, to what they want.