There was a great article in the Washington Post magazine this weekend in which Washington writer and parent R. C. Barajas goes behind the scenes to ask the questions every parent and high school senior wants to know about the college admissions process.
Barajas profiles several schools, including Goucher college, a liberal-arts program in Maryland, which actually allowed her to sit in on the admissions sessions. Some interesting, and actually very heartening, findings emerged.
First of all, it seems that college admissions departments actually read those essays! The admissions department meets together in a room and goes over all elements of the application, weighing its various merits and shortcomings.
One interesting finding: your college counselor is your best friend. According to the admissions director at Goucher, when the team has misgivings about a student, they often seek clarification from your school counselor.
At least at Goucher, extra-curriculars are very important. The team creates a score for each student: 1-6 for grades and SATs and A-D for all non-academic elements. For example, a 1C is someone who does well in school and on tests, but has not really taken advantage of sports and clubs, or pursued personal interests.
Barajas has a great quote from Goucher president Sandy Ungar: ‘”I’m very interested personally in the kids who are searching and who’ve learned some humility along the way, who know how to learn and who know there’s still so much to learn, and who are not fooled into thinking that taking 12 [advanced placement classes] makes them brilliant.”‘