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Application Reading 2.0


Posted by Carolyn Pippen on Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hello again!  I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are gearing up to finish the fall semester with a bang.  This time of year is a busy one in the world of college admissions – not only for our applicants and prospective students, but for all of us in the OUA as well.  The bulk of our travel is over, application deadlines are upon us, and the almost six-month process of reading and evaluating the many thousands of applications we receive every year has officially begun.

My new two-screen setup. All the better to read your apps with, my dear.

This reading season brought with it an exciting change for our admissions counselors and processing staff, as we are reading all applications digitally for the first time.  That’s right, no more manila folders, no more piles of paper, no more hauling giant stacks of files from office to office, and, most importantly, no more paper cuts!  Instead of printing out every item we receive and physically compiling them into individual folders, all application pieces are scanned and uploaded into one central database and then distributed to the appropriate officer as dictated by the location of each student’s high school.

While the act of reading a file now looks a little bit different – I am now scrolling and clicking instead of flipping and scribbling – the thorough, holistic review we have always employed while evaluating the applications of each prospective Commodore remains unchanged.

The first thing I see when I open your application is called the Summary Sheet – think of it as the official academic stat sheet for your high school career.  This page will tell me what classes you’ve taken, your grades in each of those classes, your GPA, class rank (if provided), and all standardized test scores.  As with everything in your file, this information will be evaluated in the context of your high school, and the Secondary School Report filled out by your high school counselor will provide the important information we need to know about the curriculum available and school-specific guidelines that have shaped your high school career.

Once I have an idea of your accomplishments in the classroom, I look to the extracurricular list to find out what you have been engaged in outside of the classroom.  We value all types of involvement – and trust me, we’ve seen it all – from student government to athletics to work experience to community service to Quidditch Club, and everything in between.  I’m not always looking for a lengthy list, but for any activities in which you have demonstrated leadership skills and time commitment.

(John Russell/Vanderbilt)

Next comes my favorite part of the application – your essay.  This piece is an opportunity for you to exhibit your writing skills, of course, which will be vital to your success in college (no matter your chosen area of study), but it also allows me to get to know you a little better.  A good essay teaches me something about you – personal strengths you acquired from a role model, an experience that shaped your perspective on the world, a global issue in which you hold a personal stake, or anything else you think will help to define you as a person and demonstrate what you could contribute to the Vanderbilt community.

Finally we have reached your recommendations.  These candid and informative letters from your counselors and teachers will help me flesh out the academic components of your file, and to better understand the context of your school.  Grades and test scores can only tell me so much, and the descriptions and stories detailed by those who know you best can give me a very good idea of how you might contribute once on campus.

As I read through your application, I am typing – that’s right, typing! – comments on each piece, highlighting your strengths and building my advocacy of you as a candidate for admission.  When the comments are complete, I will send your file – with the click of a button! – on to another the next file reviewer.  Every application we receive will be reviewed by at least two trained admissions staff in our office, and where it goes next depends on the strength of its contents.

With that, I’m off to review some more files!  Stay tuned for more details on our selection of the Vanderbilt Class of 2017, and please let us know if you have any questions regarding your application for admission.


Posted in Application Process, Common App, File Reading Explained, Standardized Testing, The College Essay and tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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