Decisions Decisions: Deny Edition

Admit It! You’re disappointed; maybe even angry.  You may want to tell us to go to Hell.  We get it.  We understand.  We don’t blame you.  We know this decision was not the one you were hoping for.  To not receive something for which you have worked so hard is never easy and it’s an unfortunate part of the admission process.  Rest assured that your application was reviewed, in its entirety, at least twice by two different members of our staff and was evaluated in the context of the entire applicant pool.

This year we received a record number of applications and those applicants, yourself included, have amazing credentials.  We know that you are an incredibly strong and involved student.  Chances are you are one of the best students at your high school.  You’ve taken great classes, you’re near the top of your class, you have strong standardized test scores, you’re involved in extracurricular organizations and you’re likely a leader within your community.  You may be grappling to understand why you were not admitted.  Believe me, it’s not you, it’s us.  The decision was made not because you did anything wrong but because so many of our applicants do everything right.  Imagine all of the top students at your high school.  They are likely all incredibly smart, responsible, hardworking young men and women all of whom have worked their butts off to earn admission to great colleges.  Chances are some of them are sports captains while others are student government officers.  Still others are incredibly talented musicians while others have lived all around the world.  They’re a pretty compelling group right?  Now take that group of students and multiply them by 1000 and that’s our applicant pool.  It’s the best and most visible students from high schools across the country and across the globe.  So we make some pretty difficult and nuanced decisions in an effort to build the most diverse, dynamic, talented and interesting incoming class possible.

You may not comprehend how we could not admit students whose numbers fit within our academic profile.  We hope that our Admit It! Blogs have illustrated that our process is about more than numbers.  That’s why there are valedictorians on our waitlist and students with a 1500 SAT and higher that are denied.  Yes, numbers are useful and play a part in making decisions, but if they were the only thing we considered we’d plug all of your applications into a computer, let it do the work, and go home.  Numbers are contextual and should be viewed through a lens which applies that context to a student’s high school and background.  What good is a 1500 if you’re in the top 30% of your class?  Is a valedictorian who took easy classes to get the easy As more deserving of admission than the student who took the harder classes and earned some Bs?  Numbers without context are meaningless so we evaluate your numbers based on the classes you took, the high school you attend, and your personal background.  Additionally, we consider so many intangible qualities including extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, essays, talents, interviews, perspectives and backgrounds none of which can be measured by a GPA or on a 1600 scale.  It is the overall evaluation of numbers and intangible qualities that help us arrive at a decision and the overwhelming strength of our pool means that students who do fit our academic profile are at times denied admission.

We know that no matter what this blog says it will be unlikely to soften the blow of the decision you received.  This blog is merely an attempt to explain the process we used and to help you have more context for the decisions we made.  We regret that we cannot admit more students to the College and we wish you all the best with your future endeavors.

Wendy Livingston, ’03. M.Ed. ‘09
Senior Assistant Dean of Admission

Categories: Admission, Faculty & Staff Blogs
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