The Limits of Proxy Measures in College Admissions

A few years ago when a reporter from the William & Mary Alumni Magazine wrote an article about our committee process, he observed that we called applications “apps” as if skipping three syllables would save us significant time.  (He wrote his article, by the way, in early 2007 before the word app had been appropriated by Apple.  Now anyone who talks about having thousands of apps sounds like an overzealous iPhone user, not an overworked admissions officer.)  Since the article’s publication, efficiency matters to us all the more.  Saving time by the syllable is not a gross exaggeration of what necessity dictates when the same number of people evaluate more applications every year within the same span of weeks.

In our office’s vernacular, academic qualities are AQs.  Personal qualities are PQs.  Extracurricular involvements are ECs.  Teachers are TRs, and recommendations are recs.  A write-up of a particular application might include the observation that the student’s increased leadership in ECs reveals much about her PQs and partially explains the decline in her AQs, as confirmed by the TR in his rec.  The economy of alphabet also protects against writer’s cramp.

We recognize an important distinction, however, between shorthand and proxies.  While GPA is a useful shorthand for grade point average, 4.0 is merely a proxy for successful learning (and in an era of weighted grading scales, it’s usually far lower than the proxy for the most successful learning).  Grades do not abbreviate educational attainments; grades stand in for them.  But good grades are neither the same thing as a good education, nor its primary purpose.

Continue reading this post >>

– Henry Broaddus

Categories: Admission, Faculty & Staff Blogs

No comments.

Comments are closed on posts older than one year, but we still want to hear from you. If you have a comment or question for us, please email