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Behind the Scenes of the OUA

Posted by on Friday, February 17, 2012 in Application Process, Common App, General Information, Uncategorized, VU Admissions Statistics.

One reason this blog exists is to make the college admissions process, particularly the process we follow here at Vanderbilt, as transparent to our applicants as possible.  In the last few months, we’ve offered insight into the reading process, what goes on in committee, and how we go about recruiting high achieving students from around the world.  While most of these topics have been centered on admissions counselors, we would be remiss not to recognize the tremendous amount of work done by those working behind the scenes.

A lot of this work is done in the Admissions Processing Center (APC), which is located on the first floor of the undergraduate admissions office, directly below my office where I’m typing this post right now.  In order to give you an idea of what our APC workers do and how crucial their contributions are, we thought we’d take you straight to the source.  Susie Archer is the Director of Enrollment Management Strategic Process Enhancements.  Her role is to oversee all operations within the APC and recommend and implement changes to current processes.

Despite the craziness surrounding EDII mailing day and the work involved in checking all Regular Decision files for missing pieces, Susie graciously agreed to take a few minutes to answer some questions about what goes down in the APC:

Walk us through how an application is compiled in our office.  What happens between the time a student hits “Submit” and the file showing up in the admissions counselor’s office?

In a nutshell, submitted apps are downloaded into our computer system and printed. Each application, with its accompanying parts, is checked by Data Entry staff to insure that the data downloaded correctly. Folders and labels are created for each application. Application parts that are not tracked electronically (e.g., that come in the mail) are tracked manually and placed in the folders. When all required materials have been submitted and tracked, the folder is passed on to the appropriate admissions professional for her/his review.

*Counselor note – last year we received 24,837 completed applications.  With each file consisting of about 15 pages, that’s 372,555 pieces of paper to be downloaded, printed, tracked, and filed!*

How many people are involved in this process?  How is the work divided?

There are 10 full-time people and at least 11 temporary people involved in the process in the APC alone.  One person downloads and prints the applications, 4 full-time data entry staff members check the applications for accuracy, and 4 full-time staff members assemble the applications and application parts.  The 11 temporary workers are divided between data entry and application processing.  Nearly all staff members are involved in the never-ending process of filing folders. I am so grateful for all of their contributions.

What happens if a student submits something late or makes a change to his/her application?

Every effort is made to accommodate a late submission unless it is simply too far past a deadline for an addition to be taken into consideration. Changes to the application can generally be made with a written (e-mail) request from the student to her/his admissions counselor.

What is the craziest situation you have encountered working with our applications?

Sometimes the files start to take on a life of their own.

I’m not sure I would describe them as crazy, but there are certainly some “interesting” things that I’ve encountered. One of these is the number of students who have the same name – even when the names are not ones that could be considered common names.  Every now and then, we run into ones whose whole name – first, middle, and last – is the same as someone else’s. Perhaps the most interesting was trying to tease apart the records of two international students whose names differed by one letter, and the computer system’s matching mechanism interpreted them to be the same person and merged their records – three times!

What is the most fun part of your job?

Always, working with people is the most fun part of my job. It is also very rewarding to find better ways of getting tasks done, and to sleuth about and find the solution to problems.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Possibly getting through the period between December 15 and January 25 when there is so much mail to be processed.  It’s like a fictional monster that reproduces on its own.  During this period, I actually feel claustrophobic sensations looking at the mail bins, and I dream about unopened mail for weeks!

Susie was unavailable for a photo this morning. However, her contributions to this piece were so crucial. Thanks Susie!

What makes working at Vanderbilt different from working at another institution?

I think of two things right off the bat. One is the sense of collegiality and family that characterizes relationships on the campus. The other is the care, attention, and thoroughness that go into the admission decision process. It is the most multi-faceted process I have ever observed.  Absolutely fascinating.

If you could give one piece of advice to a student applying to Vanderbilt, what would it be?

Make sure that you submit your application and all required materials well in advance of the deadline. This includes making sure that you have requested that test scores be sent to Vanderbilt.   This will relieve you of the stress of wondering if we received your application on time.

We would like to send a giant THANK YOU to Susie for giving us all a glance into her incredibly crucial work, as well as the entire APC for everything they do to keep your applications on track and our process moving smoothly.

Until next time!

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