Reading Season, Regional Variety

I fire up the computer sometime between 6 and 7 each morning—read my overnight email, go upstairs and brew Starbuck’s Sumatra (my older daughter works for Starbuck’s so no whining about corporate coffee, yadda yadda), walk the dog, pick up the two newspapers in front of my house.      Drink the coffee, read my newspapers and then am in front of my two screens about 8 a.m. for a day of reading—vote sheet on the screen to my left, scrolling app directly in front of me.

I do the easy lifting first as warm up: 2nd reads take 10-15 minutes each and I’m looking to see if the 1st reader has missed something or if I disagree with the read: sometimes yes, usually no.

The heavy lifting begins. 1st reads can take over a half-hour. I come at them with a blank slate and scroll through the app with great care, taking notes on scratch paper as I go. I want to know what the student has to say and what the recs say about the student. Most everyone is a good student so what distinguishes this individual? Do they have special talents, intense passions? Will they fit in Whitman’s participatory, collaborative environment? What will they bring to the table and what will they take from the table?

An admission from an admission officer: I sometimes email a student whose app I’ve just read if their writing knocks my socks off. Sometimes they email back, surprised that there’s a human being on the other end of cyberspace. There is.

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2 responses to “Reading Season, Regional Variety

  1. As a student waiting to hear back from Whitman Admissions, it’s interesting to hear about the methodology. I’ve been through the school-applying process three times now (once for high school, twice now for college), and it’s always a time for examining the ways in which your academic habits, passions, and skills have transformed since the last time you stopped to reflect on yourself this much. After that comes sitting in the kitchen every day, listening for the mail to come. It’s invaluable to know that the process is as involved and conscientious as I would hope it would be, and it’d be interesting to hear more about how these decisions get made.

    By the way, I thought I’d share a nightmare a fellow transfer friend of mine had recently. She’s currently trying to get into Brown. In her dream, she saw a meeting in a conference room, with the admissions staff of Brown seated at a circular table, a simmering cauldron of acid at its center. A mysterious shrouded figure–smoke billowing from beneath its cowl–seems to be heading the meeting. “NEXT,” the figure rasps. An application file winches down on a chain from a hole in the conference room’s ceiling. The shrouded figure takes a sniff of my friend’s application. “IT SMELLS LIKE HOPE. DROP IT!” The application drops into the acid and burns, smoldering into ashes. At that point, my friend awakens, clutching at her pillows.

    So, you know…it’s good that it’s not like that.

    All the best,
    Ted Hendershot (prospective class of 2012)

  2. Howdy!
    Man, here I was with this image in my head of a couple weary folks sitting halfheartedly around a table, treating applications as a publishing agent might treat a prospective novel: with a brief skim and a longer read if it seemed interesting. It’s amazing that you give such careful consideration to everyone’s submissions!

    And to Ted, I have to say that I wish you and your friend the best of luck. If your friend is able to have a dream as interesting as that, she must have enough creativity and spirit to write a great application.

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