I received a great e-mail this week from a parent of a Mason student. A while back the student was denied admission and then filed an appeal. The appeal was granted, and now the student is on Mason’s dean’s list. The parent takes this as evidence that admissions processes in general (or at least ours in particular) don’t work, that initially denying a student who proved to be so successful proves that admissions officers are making fairly arbitrary decisions.
For the most part, I entirely agree. As I’ve mentioned before, the admissions process isn’t a terribly imperfect tool, using very limited data on and interaction with applicants to try to predict their performance in college. Everyone who works in the field is very aware that we really don’t succeed at this goal, that there are many students we don’t admit who would be just as successful, if not more so, than the students we do accept.
Of course, most very competitive schools know they are picking among well qualified applicants for limited space. As a result, our goals are as much about class mix, student profile, and rewarding past performance as they are about predicting grades in college.
The parent is correct that we sometimes just plain get it wrong. Maybe more than sometimes. On the other hand, in this case we got it right. The committee did take a second look, and while we rarely overturn a decision in appeals committee, in this case it certainly seems to have been justified. I also believe increasingly colleges will be looking at accepting larger numbers of transfer students, giving you the opportunity to prove what kind of student you will be college, rather than relying on the limited data we have at the freshman admission stage. So maybe, just maybe, this process will get a little easier to understand, and a little less stressful. That is, until we start getting ranked on the profile of our transfer class – then the whole cycle of picking a certain profile so that we get a higher rank so that students with a higher profile select us will resume. In the meantime, my advice is to keep in mind exactly what this parent said to me- that the process is subjective and arbitrary. While many of my colleagues will disagree, it’s true enough that you should use that knowledge to try to keep the process in perspective – not being admitted, especially at first, clearly doesn’t mean you won’t be a spectacular success. Be seeing you.
Filed under: Admissions, Applications, College, College Admissions, Education, Family, GPA, Grades, High School, Life, Parents, SAT, University | Tagged: admission, appeal, College, deny, University |