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A Counselor’s View of Committee

Posted by on Tuesday, December 27, 2011 in Admissions Committee, Application Process.

Wyatt Center Columns (Daniel DuBois / Vanderbilt)

My last post left off with me having read, reviewed, and evaluated your completed applications.  After compiling my thoughts into a few brief comments and noting my recommendation, this stage is finished.  So what happens next?

That all depends on the contents of the file.  Some applications are clear admits.  Those will be sent to another officer who will sign off on my recommendation and send it back down to our file room where it will live with its decision tag until mailing day.  Others, unfortunately, are clear denies, and these files will follow a similar process.  Many of you, however, will land in that murky middle.  These are the files that I will bring to committee.

Committee is a strange, wonderful, and terrifying place that has been likened to everything from an intense oral exam to a root canal to a heated but amicable family dinner table dispute.  Its actual role in this process is to give counselors a chance to advocate for those students in our territories who find themselves on the “bubble” of Vanderbilt admissions.

Recently, after reviewing files from all my territories for several days, I went through this process for the first time. Some of these files I had read the day before, others I had not seen in a month – this is where the comments I made during the reading became so crucial.  I reviewed the strong points of each application and made sure I had context for potential weaknesses.  I also called a few high school counselors to check for current grades or new developments – believe us when we say your senior year is important too!

Committee itself usually consists of four people – the counselor plus three members of the admissions leadership team.  The meeting is half presentation and half conversation.  While my superiors peruse the applicant’s “stat sheet” (grades, GPA, test scores, etc), I use my comments to explain the particular nuances of that file.

My advocacy might be a description of the student’s superb writing ability, it might be rattling off all of the leadership positions they hold in their school, it might be the laundry list of superlatives the counselor or teachers use in their recommendations – it differs in every case.  For all of our applicants, we as a group will work to put that student in context within both this year’s applicant pool and the types of students we’ve seen from that particular school in years past.

Once we have discussed every corner of the file and debated every possible outcome, a decision is made.  Sometimes we as counselors agree with that decision, sometimes we don’t, but either way there is a new folder at the top of the file that deserves our advocacy, so we move on.

Committee may be a stressful experience, and it is certainly the least cut-and-dry portion of our process, but it was far and away my favorite day of the year so far.  Committee is my chance to do what I have been telling you all year it is my job to do – fight for you.

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