Mind your PQs

Admit It!  You think admission is all about numbers: your SAT, your GPA, the number of math courses you took, etc.  But admission is not all about numbers at selective universities that use holistic review like W&M. Sure numbers are part of our process, but they are far from the whole.

Admission is about so much more than numbers. You are individuals, not a summation of your GPA and SAT.  And it’s your personalities, your talents, your quirks, your idiosyncrasies that make us remember you.  We discern PQs (personal qualities) through your extracurricular involvements, your letters of recommendation, your essay(s), your interview, your background, your life experience, your perspective.  And it’s your PQs that will make our campus the dynamic, diverse, eclectic place that it is.  You’re not defined solely by your numbers so why should we admit you solely by them?

Your PQs (or the shorthand for what we in the admission world call personal qualities) are incredibly important to us because they are what distinguish you from the other smart, involved, high-achieving students in our pool.  Unfortunately your 4.0 GPA and your 1350 SAT score, while they might distinguish you within the confines of your high school, do not distinguish you in a highly competitive applicant pool.  Here’s the other thing, subtle differences in GPA and SAT are not where tough decisions are made.  Let’s face it; the difference between a 4.0 and a 4.1 is likely one grade in one class.  The difference between a 1350 and a 1370 is likely the difference of a handful of wrong answers.  But people are absolutely different from one another, and it’s in those personal qualities that we build a class.

Tonight I’m giving a presentation about admission being more than numbers to the parents whose students attend a local K-12 school.  When asked to make the presentation, I decided to present on some of my most memorable applicants.  It took me a matter of minutes to list those applicants, all of whom I remembered not for their numbers, but for their PQs.  I remember Kyle (note that names are changed for confidentiality reasons) because he was not only an offensive lineman on the football team but also played several leads in the school musicals while being class president.  I remember Katherine because of the gut-wrenching and yet beautifully-written essay she submitted on her father’s battle with alcoholism.  I remember Kelley because she was a beauty queen…yes an actual beauty queen.  I remember Elena because she wrote the best opening line I’ve ever read in an application essay (Fact: I have no boobies).  I remember Mallory because of her essay on her family’s trips to the corn palace.  I remember Clayton because he was the first student in his family to graduate from high school and he was going to graduate from one of the best magnet programs in the state (he also was voted the school’s first African-American Homecoming King).  I remember Samuel because he was a world champion Yo-Yo-er (and yes, I had no idea there were yo-yo competitions either).  I remember Charles because he made racist comments in his interview (don’t worry, he wasn’t admitted).  I remember Christopher because all of his recommenders noted how condescending he was to students who he felt had inferior intelligence (don’t worry we didn’t admit him either).  I remember the student from Sumatra who lived on a street with all of his extended family.  I remember Jessica whose mother had raised her in a cult during which she got no formal education.  And who can forget Steven who sung with the Vienna Boys Choir or James who had a patent pending for his weather forecaster.  Individuals, all of them.  A set of numbers, none of them.

So you get the point.  Your PQs are important to us.  They make you who you are.  Your numbers are important to us too (if they weren’t you wouldn’t work so hard to obtain them).  But remember your application is a two-dimensional representation of who you are three-dimensionally, not just what your brain can accomplish.  Spend time delving into extracurricular activities.  Run for leadership positions.  Develop your talents.  Write about your quirks.  Share with us your history, your background, your culture.  Have others recommend you based on all of the above.

We will mind our Ps and Qs as we consider your PQs.

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

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