8 Minutes That Will Change Your Life

In 8 minutes the average human can:

1.      Boil an egg.

2.      Run a mile.

3.      Shower and change.

And the average college admissions officer? That human can read and pass judgment on your entire college application, everything included –grades, test scores, resume and all essay responses.

Granted, two admissions officers peruse your application in tandem. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, “some elite colleges review an application in 8 minutes. Or less.” Sitting side-by-side, one person reads your transcript and test scores while the other reads your essay responses. They briefly share notes about you and then decide to admit, deny or wait-list. In 8 minutes. Or less.

The main reason for this time crunch is the sheer number of college applications inundating admission offices. Students submit their applications online through the Common,  Coalition or the UC Application. Once a student has entered in the necessary information, applying to one school or twenty schools is as easy as checking an additional box; the only limit is the application and test score submission fees.

Not surprisingly, every year, the number of college applications has grown by leaps and bounds. Duke University broke 30,000 applications last year; Boston University was over 60,000. Last fall, UCLA became the first university to receive over 100,000 applications in a single year. In a perverse arms race, high school seniors submit even more applications to raise their chances of getting into college. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 36 percent of first-time freshmen applied to seven or more colleges in the fall of 2015. Just 10 years earlier, in the fall of 2005, only 17 percent of first-time freshmen applied to seven or more institutions.

Pity the poor admissions officer. Faced with thousands of applications and a short deadline, the only response is an 8-minute processing time. Like a 21st century Bartleby the Scrivener working in the dead letter office, admissions officers must reject thousands and thousands of applicants, even though many are fully qualified to attend their institutions.

What a soul-crushing job.

So, who is that person on the other side of your application? Who aspires to be a collegiate bureaucrat? Most likely, the application reader, especially the most junior readers, couldn’t get a job at Google or Goldman Sachs. Or maybe they had to follow their spouses who are tenure-track professors at said university and they needed some type of paid employment.

Faced with such a reader, what can you, the applicant, do?

Well, first, pray to the application gods that your submission gets read either first thing in the morning or right after lunch. In an Israeli study, judges were more likely to grant parole to prisoners if they reviewed their cases first thing in the morning or right after lunch. A parole rate of 65% dropped close to zero as judges reviewed more cases right before lunch time. The parole rate rose again, immediately after lunch. The researchers concluded that mental fatigue sets in and judges will default to the easier decision as they get tired. The easier decision is to deny parole.

By analogy, for an admissions officer, the easier decision is to deny admissions. Therefore, college applications read early in the morning or right after lunch will probably have a slightly higher admit rate as mental fatigue has not yet taken its toll. (I haven’t found such a study, but please send me a link if you have).

Second, make sure your essays grab the reader’s attention. The Common and Coalition Applications basically ask you to tell a story that only you can tell. What story can you tell that will put a smile on the face of that possibly bitter, definitely overworked reader?

Third, use summer to get a head start on the process. By drafting your essays earlier, you can allow time between drafts and gather comments from friends, family, and teachers. Writing a good essay takes time and effort. Often your first ideas will not be your best ideas. By starting in the summer, you have the luxury to start over.

A three-month head start in the summer may pay off when faced with the 8 minutes that will change your life.
https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/views/2017/12/04/high-school-students-are-applying-too-many-colleges-essay
https://www.wsj.com/articles/some-elite-colleges-review-an-application-in-8-minutes-or-less-1517400001 (Need subscription to read)

To Get Parole, Have Your Case Heard Right After Lunch
By Kate Shaw, Ars Technica Between the courtroom antics of lawyers, witnesses and jurors, reason doesn’t always …
Click link above or copy & paste into browser: https://www.wired.com/2011/04/judges-mental-fatigue/

From The Atlantic article “Where College Admissions Went Wrong” on who are the gatekeepers in the admissions office: “You would never find the faculty in any decent university that would allow 24-year-olds to determine who were going to be their colleagues on the faculty; nor would they allow these 24-year-olds to determine who are going to be their graduate students or their post doctorate fellows,” said Cole, noting that admissions officers have often declined to go forward with his recommendations. “So why do we do it in undergraduate education?” The article also advocates a lottery system among all the qualified applicants. This would be fairer and less stressful for both applicants and admissions officers.
Click link above or copy & paste into browser: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/03/college-admissions-narcissists/475722/

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