Well, it’s been a crazy three weeks or so as the January 15 regular decision deadline has come and gone, leaving support staff inundated with sorting essays, importing test scores and common applications, and printing golden “complete” letters, informing anxious students we do indeed have all the components of their application. Soon after the kind ladies upstairs work their magic, the various pieces arrive in our reading tool in a .pdf file ordered common application, transcript, Whitman supplement, teacher recommendations, and finally, interview notes. The switch to electronic reading is relatively recent; I just graduated from Whitman last May and when I started as a student worker five years ago compiling and sorting the paper files was a major part of my job. Now students digitize any and all paper we receive.
Anyway, back to the present; while it would be a neat trick if the completed files automatically migrated from upstairs to officers’ various computers, it’s just not that simple. Due to major discrepancies in the number of applicants from various geographic locations, not all officers are able to “first read” all the students from their territories. While PJ, the California officer, is an absolute file master, there is simply no way he can keep up with the massive number of Cali applications, and so officers with less populated applicant territories, like myself, pick up the slack, especially if we’ve had past interaction with the student. These decisions are made by the all-powerful kings of distribution, Josh and PJ. For the most part, however, the majority of any territories files, even Seattle and California, are first read by the area officer. After the initial vote, the file is distributed again to a “second reader,” and from there a decision is made, either admit, deny, committee, or waitlist.
If the two readers disagree on their votes or an application hits a committee trigger (recent C, test scores or GPA below a certain threshold, to give a few examples), but at least one officer wants to admit the student anyway, the applicant will be discussed in a committee of 6-10 admission officers in early to mid-March. Knowing all this, students can rest assured their application is receiving a thorough vetting.
Right now distribution is really beginning to heat up as more and more files are processed. Batches of files go out twice a week in groups between 15-60 at a time, and are due back one week later. One thing I’m really loving about reading season so far, besides all the amazing applicants, is the fact officers are given one whole day and two half-days out of the office each week to focus on reading (it’s hard to focus on anything for too long here). Kicking back with a good essay on The Great Gatsby and a cup of coffee on your own couch hardly feels like work. Of course, I might change my mind hundreds of files and a few months later…