The Ivy Coach Daily

January 31, 2018

The 8-Minute Rule in College Admissions

This is Giotto. Rumor has it, the man could draw a perfect circle freehand quite quickly. But it took him many years to master this skill.

The fast food industry may have a 3-second rule. You know…the rule that food or cutlery dropped on the floor is still clean if it’s picked up within three seconds of the fall. Gross, we know. Well, some college admissions offices have an 8-minute rule. How long do admissions officers generally spend reviewing the applications of candidates for admission to their universities? This answer varies depending upon the institution as well as the speed of the individual admissions officer evaluating applications. But there are some universities that approach evaluating applications differently than do others. Some of our nation’s most elite colleges review applications in eight minutes, as a “Wall Street Journal” piece out today points out. At these institutions, candidates are evaluated through a committee approach. And what does that mean? It means that one admissions officer may evaluate grades and test scores while another may evaluate admissions essays as well as activities. And so on.

College Applications Reviewed by Committee

There are some who believe this review by committee approach runs counter to the holistic approach to admissions that these schools are quick to tout, but there are others — like us — who believe that this kind of approach does not in any way run counter to a holistic approach. All factors are still evaluated — from test scores to grades to extracurriculars, teacher and counselor letters of recommendations, admissions essays, the interview, the student’s profile, and more. We would argue that admissions officers are able to pay even closer attention to the factors they are charged with evaluating under this system. It breaks up the assembly line and invariably reduces error while increasing speed. As colleges receive more and more applications just about every year, it seems perfectly reasonable to us to improve assembly. Think about all those “Shark Tank” companies that box their products in their basements. As they grow, they’ve got to move out of their basements and they’ve got to stop boxing themselves. College admissions offices aren’t located in basements and admissions officers don’t pack boxes (or envelopes).

8 Minutes Is Plenty of Time to Review a College Application

In the piece in “The Wall Street Journal,” Melissa Korn quotes a student who doesn’t seem to appreciate the 8-minute rule. As Korn writes, “’I put in four years of super hard work. To know that it’s all over in 10 minutes is just mind-blowing,’ said Caleb Richmond, an 18-year-old senior at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H., who says he wrote about seven drafts of his main college admission essay.” But we respectfully disagree with Caleb. Eight minutes is plenty of time to review a student’s file. We at Ivy Coach don’t need 25 minutes to review an application. We’ve been evaluating applications for decades. We can read every word of a Personal Statement in under a minute and have a firm understanding of what the applicant hoped to express — whether successful or not.

About fifteen years ago, Northwestern offered an essay prompt that told the story of how the artist Giotto could draw a perfect circle freehand on a napkin quite quickly. But it took him a lifetime to learn how to draw that perfect circle freehand so he didn’t wish to give away the work for free. When parents who were not our clients in the college admissions process come to us after their children don’t get in, they sometimes ask us how many days we’ll need to review their unsuccessful applications before we meet with them for their child’s evaluation. But we don’t need days. We don’t need hours. We can draw that perfect circle freehand on the napkin…only our circle is the college application. We need minutes — just like college admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities.

Have a question about the 8-minute rule at some of our nation’s most highly selective colleges? Let us know your question by posting it below.

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