Who Reads my Application?

Inside the Admissions Office

Who Reads my Application?

Before you start this process you might be thinking, “Who reads my application?” Every admis-sions office is slightly different, but the majority of top American institutions have a team of around 10 - 30 admissions counselors who perform duties such as: conducting information ses-sions/interviews, answering emails/phone calls, and reading applications. Additionally, most of-fices operate on a regional model, i.e. every admissions officer is assigned a particular region (or country) and is expected to become an “expert” on the high schools in that region.

This ensures two things:

  • The traveling officer will visit high schools in that region to get a sense of local customs and admissions trends.
  • Students are evaluated fairly in the context of their environment. For example, students who live near a national laboratory will often have access to publish research, while students who live in more rural areas might be expected to work on their farm.

So who are these officers? The same way colleges look to recruit a diverse student body, they also aim to hire a diverse group of admissions officers. Some officers, like myself, were hired directly out of college and are called “Admissions Counselors” or “Assistant Directors.” They perform many of the day-to-day operations, such as answering your emails and reading applica-tions. More experienced officers are often called “Associates,” and they’ll play a larger role in final decision making. Before decisions are made, these officers convene together in what is called a “committee room” to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the applications that year, and often take a vote on which students will be admitted.

Admissions officers are a highly collaborative group, and often travel together and share tips and strategies. Most end up working at a variety of different schools over the course of their career. For example, someone might graduate from Stanford and work there for 2 - 3 years before taking a position at the University of Chicago, an maybe end up at a college such as Swarthmore or Williams.

It can be helpful to remember that admissions officers tend to have a background in the humani-ties. Of course there are plenty of former scientists and engineers, but you should never ignore the importance to reading and writing skills when preparing your application. Highlighting your knowledge of English literature and western philosophy gives officers more confidence that you will acclimate to American college life.

Many colleges now have an officer who recruits specifically in East Asia, perhaps exclusively in China, or you might work with someone called the “Director of International Admissions.” They have special training and knowledge of issues that you might have to deal with, including visas, international scholarships, and other special requirements like the TOEFL.

You might have already met your regional admissions officer at a local recruitment event, or perhaps interacted with them via email.

One key thing to remember: while admissions officers are always happy to help, you should do a thorough search through the college’s website before emailing a question. Hundreds of times a year we’d receive inquiries such as, “When is your application deadline?” and we’d question if the student has the research skills necessary to succeed in college.

Finally, keep in mind that every admissions office is different. Some colleges do not yet have sophisticated recruitment strategies in China, so it will be up to you to do your research and ap-ply through the proper channels. The good news is, counselors at ChaseFuture will happily help point you in the right direction.