What happens in a college admissions committee? Over Family Weekend, Uppers and their parents gained insight to the process, participating in an activity where they acted as an admissions officer themselves. The event was run by the College Counseling Office and marked the beginning of the Class of 2021’s college counseling program.
Participants had to decide between three prospective college candidates to either admit, waitlist, or deny them. Approximately seventeen admissions deans, including deans from University of Chicago, Yale University, and Wellesley College, attended the event.
According to Sean Logan, Dean of College Counseling, the event gave Uppers and their families the opportunity to learn more about the college admissions process by putting themselves in the shoes of admissions deans, a perspective that families do not always have access to.
“The college process can be shrouded in a lot of mystery sometimes, and [the mock college admission session] is a way to pull back the curtain and say hey, this is what the admissions staff are doing,” said Logan.
According to Logan, approximately two thirds of the Upper class participated in the event.
Irene Kwon ’21 appreciated the session, especially the inclusion of current admissions deans from a variety of institutions. She explained that the time she spent with them alleviated many concerns she had about the college process.
“I personally did enjoy the activity, because it allowed me to see how holistic the process really is. Doing the activity we compared three candidates of very different profiles, and I felt assured, because it meant that even if there are people with wildly different profiles or specs, we’re still judged very fairly against one another, which I think is a big cause of concern at Andover,” said Kwon.
By evaluating the applications of three students applying to a fictitious university, mixed groups of parents and Uppers acted as an admission committee. Based on this university’s set of values, the group, along with an admissions dean at a real university, they decided whether to admit, waitlist, or deny each of these students.
“The purpose of the program is not so much in who they admit, deny, and waitlist. It’s really to show parents and students the different types of factors that get looked at in the process. They sit there with an admissions dean who does this because that’s what their job is and they get a chance to think about, what about the recommendation here? What about the extracurriculars? What about the presentation in general? Did that essay really reveal anything about the student, did they do a good job?” said Logan.
Although each group is given the same applications, the decisions to admit, deny, or waitlist are widely varied, according to Logan. Students can learn from the range of what schools are looking for in a candidate.
“It’s an interesting exercise but what we like about it, is to really kick off the program for eleventh graders. It really gives them a sense of this is the range of what schools might be looking for and the kinds of things they might be interested in. It helps to start the process and give them a sense of holistic admission and what that means, it’s more than test scores and grades and rigor of program,” said Logan.
According to Logan, this exercise is helpful for parents to see weaknesses in applications beforehand and to understand how the values of certain institutions are reflected in admissions decisions. By having both the parents and students participate, the mock college admissions session also serves as a common ground and a foundation to begin talking about the college process.
“We get a lot of positive feedback for the session, and we think that parents really appreciate the opportunity to actually have to dive in and do the work. They get a chance to see what their child will be doing… It helps parents to get a sense of what the institutional values might be, what their child might bring to the table. I think they really appreciate these conversations with the deans and they get a chance to vote. You’ll find parents saying that I didn’t realize it would be so difficult,” said Logan.
The session’s role as a precursor to the college process as a whole acted as a good way to ease students and their families in, according to Kwon.
“I feel like a lot of [Uppers] might be overwhelmed with the whole college process if we are exposed to the whole process so late. But I like how Andover started us on this track early so that we can kind of ease into the whole college counseling process without feeling too overwhelmed. I also like how we are going to be able to spend the next year and a half preparing for college. And so that gives us a lot of time to think about what we need to do moving forward,” said Kwon.