The other day I was having lunch with a friend. In fact, it was a student I recruited back in the mid 1990s. That’s one of the best parts of admissions work. Sometimes we form long time friendships with students we work with.
After being out of college for nearly 10 years, my friend is headed to graduate school to pursue her life long passion and talent for music. She commented that she applied to a few different schools and was admitted to one of the top schools (for music) in the country and was denied admission at a school she felt was inferior to the other. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense – and I understand the frustration. Inside of course, I had a feeling I knew what was behind the decision process. We only had an hour for lunch and we had many other things to discuss. Consequently, I didn’t pursue it – but I thought it might be helpful to offer it here.
First and foremost, the business of admissions is to admit students. We want very much to admit YOU. We love your enthusiasm and want you to have the kind of experience we know you can on campus. The challenge is a limited number of seats in a class given a large and often unbelievably talented applicant pool. You are really impressive!
So here it is. The size of the school you are considering (hopefully, Elon) is one of its most appealing attributes. There are myriad reasons students like the size of a university. Since that’s such an important characteristic, it’s incumbant on the admissions office to maintain the size of a first year class. Since accepted students turn into enrolling students, we necessarily need to limit the number of offers of admission. When a large number of outstanding students apply, this becomes the crux of our work. At Elon, we consider a variety of factors and while academics are always paramount, we use other factors like your essay, activities, leadership and information from you Guidance or College Counselor. It’s painful work but we do it.
So you see, selectivity is often a function not just of profile, but of other factors as well, including the need to maintain the size of a class – largely because that’s what has drawn you to a school in the first place. Yes, we all want talented students and Elon has been fortunate to have an applicant pool full of them each year. The process, on those dark, late Fall and Winter days is grueling. Sometimes people take decisions personally and I understand that. It’s not meant to be, however. A decision to decline or defer an application is simply a function of selective admission.
Remember, the admissions office is in the business of admitting students. I suspect the school that turned down my friend’s application labored over the decision. I bet the members of the admissions committee couldn’t believe how fortunate they were to have received her application. Still, for a number of reasons, she was not admitted. In the end, everything worked out. That school has a full class and my friend is pursuing her dream in the program of her dreams.
All my best, Karen. Remember, I knew you when!