Admissions deadlines for Admissions Officers
Think you’re the only one that gets stressed meeting admissions deadlines? Our officers are reading their eyeballs out right now, poring over applications trying to meet our own internal priority deadlines. In our office, we set goals as to when all applications should be first read, second read, and decisioned (more on this term and a minute), etc. One such priority deadline is coming up this week. You know how I can tell? Two things: the accumulation of pizza boxes in the breakroom trash (from after hours dinner breaks from reading) and the copious coffee drinking in the AM from those late night reading sessions. The reason for these deadlines, what we refer to internally as “pushes,” is so that we can be as informed about the total pool of candidates for each decision round (ED1, ED2, and Regular) before we begin committee. Vanderbilt has a much bigger Admissions staff than many other schools like us (23 officers that read files), and our officers read considerably less files per officer than many of our peers (sometimes by as much as half). These elements are by design, as they are intended to increase the depth of our reviews. However, even with these efforts in place, under the premises of a Gregorian calendar, where time is arithmetically measured and finite, we have to channel our resources to get these letters out the door on time. At a very high level, our process is built to direct more of these resources (i.e., reading/committee time) to the students who need it most, that being students in the muddy middle of our pool.
If our applicant pool is a bell curve where there is a small number of students at the very top (the wicked smaaart for you New Englanders & Good Will Hunting fans) and the very bottom, the majority will fall in the middle, which for Vanderbilt is still is pretty bright, but I digress. There is a whole group of applicants who on the surface look alike (testing, gpa, class rigor, etc) for whom we spend more time in reviewing their unique qualities (found in their leadership, writing, recs, etc). Every student who applies to Vanderbilt has their file reviewed (yes, even the non-numeric stuff) by an admissions officer, even the applicant who is clearly not competitive. But we do reserve our committee time to discussing the students in the middle of our pool.
To get through all 19,000+ apps, we have to start early. Which means we may have already read your app some two months ago and it is currently in a “decisioned” status right now. That means that in our internal system, your application may be flagged as a “hold,” an “admit” or a “deny.” In a lot of ways, the term “decisioned” is a misnomer. These are NOT permanent statuses, as they can and routinely do change. We often relook at these decisions once the pool completes, and we look at new information that arrives from you. Your officer may have read your file in December, and then you sent in something new, the officer will catch that and look at it to see if this new information changes anything. This is the primary benefit of a pooled admissions evaluation process (such as what Vanderbilt has), where we try and contextualize each application in the totality of the pool, rather than rolling admissions processes that maintain established admit guidelines (even if only known internally) that adjust as more of the pool becomes known.
Now back to reading.