Confessions of a College Application Reader

  • …while seeming to prize the high-paying out-of-state students who are so attractive during times of a growing budget gap.
  • …questioned why a student who … had only a 3.5 G.P.A. should rank so highly. Could it be because he was a nonresident and had wealthy parents?
  • Income, an optional item on the application, would appear on the very first screen we saw, along with applicant name, address and family information.
  • In personal statements, we had been told to read for the “authentic” voice over students whose writing bragged of volunteer trips to exotic places or anything that “smacks of privilege.”
  •  Many essays lucidly expressed a sense of self and character — no small task in a sea of applicants. Less happily, many betrayed the handiwork of pricey application packagers, whose cloying, pompous style was instantly detectable, as were canny attempts to catch some sympathy with a personal story of generalized misery. The torrent of woe could make a reader numb: not another student suffering from parents’ divorce, a learning difference, a rare disease, even dandruff!

Confessions of an Application Reader
Lifting the Veil on the Holistic Process at the University of California, Berkeley