Do admissions officers know each high school relatively well?
As part our College Q & A guide, we decided to ask your questions to the the experts. Here are their answers.
Dr. Bruce Neimeyer, CEO/Partner, Global College Search Associates, LLC
Most admissions offices have at least one officer whose responsibility it is to know and monitor a geographical region. Therefore, not only do they know about your high school but will be informed about many other things that are happening in that region as it relates to business and the economy. Doing this helps them to better understand other factors that might influence how and what applicants might surface from this territory from year to year. In relation to the high school question, admissions officers know the high school from several ways. First, the high school profile usually accompanies all the transcripts. This helps the offer to know the course offerings, special programs, grading scale and general performance of the student body as a whole. Second, admissions officers take the time to meet with guidance counselors from the school who can give them insight into many other factors which are not apparent from the paper profile. Typically, they will keep a file on the high school and record any relevant information that the admissions office should know when considering student from there. Also, the companies that administer the ACT or SAT collect biodemographic information from each student who takes the exam. They bundle this information in relation to the students high school and that cumulative information is available to many colleges so that they have an idea about the students academically as well as whether most of them are sending their scores to out of state or in state schools and their general academic area of interest. This allows many admissions officers to know if the high school is worth visiting because of the match between such factors as these and the college they represent. These are a few of the ways that admissions officers will educate themselves about their high schools for which they are responsible. If they do this well it will greatly assist them in their job and will help to ensure good admissions decisions for the applicants from that territory to their institution.
Patricia, Krahnke, President/Partner, Global College Search Associates, LLC
Short Answer: Seasoned admissions officers who have spent years working at colleges in the same state will know your high school fairly well. However, this can cause them to prejudge your application. Detailed Answer: There is a great deal of prejudice in college admissions – as many different attitudes as there are counselors — so the fact that an admissions officer knows your school can work both for or against you. High schools that are in socioeconomically challenged areas are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to college admissions. Counselors who have personal prejudices against certain ethnicities or economic backgrounds will lean toward not admitting students from those high schools. I remember a student from a high school in Jersey City, a famously poor, urban, multi-ethnic area. Her academic record was straight As in a strong academic program. She had maxed out everything she could take. She was Valedictorian. However, her high school did not offer SAT prep courses, and clearly her family could not afford to pay for individual coaching. Her combined SAT verbal and math score was 900, well below minimum admissibility. I pushed her file up the line and said to the associate director, “YOU be the one who can’t sleep at night for denying this student.” Eventually we admitted her, but the discussions about it revealed the deeply held prejudices of individual staff members. Conversely, students from high income communities are expected to have benefited from all the privileges and advantages afforded to their high school students. This can make it difficult for a student whose academic record is weak. The assumption is that the student is either 1) too dumb to make it at the college, or 2) lazy. The fact is that any number of issues can play into the failure of a student’s academic record. These factors can make it difficult to see the student’s real talent – hidden traumas, family or personal illnesses, divorce, abuse, romantic disappointments, late-blooming maturity, etc. The counselor may assume that the student had all the advantages in the world, so there must be something wrong with this student to not have achieved at a level similar to his/her peers. The bottom line is this: Admissions counselors that know your high school and community may base their opinion of YOU on past students who have applied from your school – which has very little to do with who you are or who you will be. A final story: At the NACAC conference this past September, the Princeton rep on the College Interview seminar panel blurted out that Princeton simply “never takes students from West Virginia.” Then she stumbled all over herself trying to take back her words. It would have been funny had it not been so smug and disturbing.
Francine Schwartz, Founder/ President, Pathfinder Counseling LLC
In my role as a college consultant for a large high school I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of admissions representatives. Usually colleges assign admissions officers to territories and they cover the same high schools year after year, though changes definitely occur. Each high school sends what is called a “high school profile” to every college where their students apply. The profile gives detailed statistics about the high school demographics and curriculum. In that way admissions officers can make fair comparisons between high schools. For example if you attend a rural high school in North Dakota they know that the number of AP classes available for a student to take will not be the same as a high school in suburban Washington DC for example. They would therefore not expect a student to have taken as many AP classes if they were not available to them.
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