For the past few weeks now, our office has been going through a steady stream of Early Decision applications. Most of our office is veteran readers, so for them this was just another reading season, but for three of us, it was our first reading season, and much like the excitement around the first snow or the first slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, I could not wait to get started reading applications.
At Tufts, each officer is in charge of reading all of the applications from their assigned territory. In my case, if any of you fine internet visitors are from the states of Oregon, Washington or Alaska, from the New Jersey counties of Essex, Union, or Hudson, or from the towns of Canton, Ipswitch, or Brookline in Massachusetts, your applications will automatically come to me (looking forward to meeting all of you!).
There’s an order to reading an application; first is academics, easily the most quantifiable aspect of your application, though not quite automatic. We like to see that you are taking a rigorous curriculum, but that can mean something different at each school depending on what that school offers. We like to see that you do well in those classes, but if there was a life emergency during your academic year, we of course to take that into consideration as well. We look at testing (SATs or ACTs), but understand that different students test differently and one day does not always show your potential as a four year transcript can. Admittedly it is a challenge getting to know the thousands of schools that our applicants hail from, but luckily for us, along with your transcript your high school will send us your school’s profile” to let us know what kind of educational environment you come from.
After academics is extracurricular involvement; what do you do outside of the classroom? Are you well rounded or a specialist; do you take on leadership roles or prefer to work behind the scenes; do you explore various different activities or do you pick a few things and stick to them? We use all of this and more to better understand how you used your resources over the course of your time in high school.
Finally, after all that is the most subjective part of the application: voice. Voice at Tufts means your Tufts supplement, your Common Application essay, your recommendations, and your interview if you choose to have one. This is where you get the chance to tell us who you are, and more importantly for me, where I get to learn about each and every incredible applicant we get. Your extracurricular involvement should tell us what you do out of the classroom while your essays should tell us why you did them. Probably the most amazing thing I’ve found while reading applications so far is just how much of an impact your voice can have on your overall application. At Tufts we’re not creating a class of GPAs and SAT scores, we’re creating a class of individuals, each with his or her own story, his or her own worldview, and his or her own life experiences.
After the full application is read a first time, it then goes on to a second admissions officer to be read in its entirety a second time. Having two people read each application opens the essays and recommendations to different opinions and while usually each reader reaches the same conclusion, that is not always the case. That’s why our applications go to committee where they can be opened up to even more viewpoints in the hopes that a common understanding of the student will be found that is true to who they are. And then finally the last step: the committee votes and a decision is made.
For years and years I wondered how exactly Admissions Committees across the world made their decisions to accept some students while unfortunately denying others. I was the girl who lived in my guidance counselor’s office surrounded by college books hoping to help any and all that walked through her doors looking for advice on college. Now, instead of college books I have experience and instead of my guidance counselor’s office, I have this blog! So while Tufts is just one school, hopefully this post has helped to illuminate what happens to your application after you press “Submit,” though if you still have lingering questions, there’s always the Comments section!