Overheard in Committee — The High School Profile Edition

We Admit It!  It’s time for Early Decision Committee.  Each morning, all dean staff gather in our windowless conference room armed with application files, caffeine, sugar (our Early Decision Committee snack cart consists of Sam’s Club-size Cheeze-Its, Fig Newtons, Lays snack-size bags of chips, candy bars, trail mix, dried fruit, animal crackers (both regular and frosted), chewy granola bars and fruit snacks) and enthusiasm to begin shaping William & Mary’s Class of 2018.  As we engage in our committee deliberations throughout the year (Early Decision, Regular Decision, Spring Transfer, Fall Transfer), our “Overheard in Committee” blog series will continue.  In this blog we take our readers inside our discussions to help you understand how and why we make the decisions we make.

Overheard in Committee today: What does the profile say? (PS: we’d like to thank a loyal Admit It! follower for proposing this topic…it’s overheard in Committee almost every day, but we had never thought to blog about it until he suggested it.)

Almost every high school produces what’s called a profile: a detailed description of that school’s curriculum, grading policies, community and often times much more.  It helps admission officers to understand CONTEXT.  Context is crucial to how we review applications and to how we make decisions at W&M.  Whether it’s cultural, educational, geographic, socioeconomic, or any one of numerous other varieties, context is important.  It helps us to understand the environment in which you’ve achieved the results demonstrated in your application.

School context helps provide guidance for evaluating your transcript.  What classes were available to you and which ones did you take?  Does your school use a traditional 10-point grading scale or something different?  Does your school weight your GPA and class rank (if provided), and if so, to what extent?  If your high school doesn’t rank students, does it provide context clues related to rank (decile parameters, a high GPA, a median GPA, etc.).  How many students from your high school go on to two and/or four-year colleges after graduating?

Each of us at W&M has specific regions for which we read.  As a regional dean, it’s our job to know the schools in our regions (along with their curricula, relative competitiveness, grading scales, specialty magnet programs, etc.) and provide that context along with general geographic context to the second read each file receives (each application we receive is read at least twice – generally the second read is conducted by the regional dean).  While we are familiar with A LOT of high schools, we cannot possibly keep up with every individual high school in our region.  In those cases, and even in those cases where we are familiar with the high school, the profile can help us provide great insight into how competitive academically your school might be, what if any limits are placed on your scheduling process (are APs limited for example or are students required to take specific classes each year or is there block scheduling) and the kind of academic environment of which you’ve been a part.  Armed with this information, we can make more informed evaluations of your academic achievements relative to your individual high school environment.

We hope that this particular blog helps our readers to understand that individual context is one very important component of our evaluation process.  We know that each high school and each individual applicant has been shaped by various outside forces.  Part of our process is to understand those forces and evaluate each applicant in the appropriate context.  That context will then help to inform the bold, dynamic, engaging class we bring together.

Stay tuned next week for more insights from our Early Decision deliberations!

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

PS: We recognize that commencing committee will lead our eager ED applicants to ask us to forecast a decision release date.  Unfortunately, as we’ve mentioned several times, that’s simply not possible.  There’s no way to put a time on our Committee deliberations and the steps taken once that concludes to actually releasing decisions.  As soon as we know when we’re releasing decisions (which we usually don’t know until we push the metaphorical button and release the emails) we will be sure to let everyone know.  In the meantime, we thank you for your continued patience…especially this year with our extended application deadline and working with the new Common App.


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