Do admissions officers really read every application? It’s a question we get asked every year and, year after year, our answer remains the same. Yes, even this past year when admissions offices at our nation’s highly selective universities were inundated with applications in an unprecedented fashion. Admissions officers really do parse through the whole application. Does that mean that an admissions officer at Harvard University isn’t going to skim the essays of C student with a 1200 SAT? No, admissions officers are human, but even that C student will get a skim for the $75 application fee. How generous of Harvard to offer six minutes of their time, right? But allow us to share with you why your fear that your application won’t be read is just plain wrong. You see, it all comes down to a student Harvard once admitted as an undergraduate. Theodore John Kaczynski. You might know him as Ted Kaczynski? Or perhaps the Unabomber? Right, that guy. Harvard doesn’t want to admit another Unabomber. So, yes, that line in one of your supplemental admissions essays in which you insinuate you might enjoy animal cruelty will not go unnoticed. Admissions officers can’t risk not reading the complete applications of applicants. What if they were to not read such a line and offer that student admission? Yikes!
And how exactly did elite universities read through all the increased applications this year? That’s easy. The schools hired more readers! In describing this year’s record-breaking year in admissions at Yale University, Amelia Davidson reports for The Yale Daily News in a piece entitled “‘A top of the roller coaster moment’: How Yale admissions officers read nearly 47,000 applications in months,” “To evaluate this year’s unprecedented number of applications, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions brought in new hires and increased committee meetings. Yale’s admissions officers hunkered down to read applications for over three months straight. On April 6, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions announced that Yale College had accepted 4.62 percent of applicants out of a pool of 46,905 applications, a 33 percent increase from the previous year’s pool. To read through all of these applications, Yale hired two new admissions officers — despite a University-wide hiring freeze — and increased the number of committees meeting each day from two to three. Admissions officers worked entirely remotely and described an ‘all-hands-on-deck situation’ that required increasing hours and reading expectations…In addition to these changes, the Ivy League as a whole decided in January to push back the admissions timeline by a week to give all schools more time to read applications. All Ivy League institutions released their decisions on April 6, compared to late March in previous years.”
So, yes, your application will be read. It will be read in spite of your grades, in spite of the lack of rigor of your coursework. It will be read in spite of the fact that your application might be boring or all over the place. It will be read in spite of the fact that you didn’t write any of the optional essays. It just doesn’t mean you’ll get in. When admissions officers tell you that they really do read every file, they’re telling it like it is. It’s the truth.
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