The Dog Days of Admissions

At a diner recently, I was distracted from my own conversation by the discussion taking place in the booth behind me.  Two high school seniors were sitting with their parents, expressing their hopes and anxieties about the college admission process.  It is the time of year when students all over the US are anxiously awaiting their decisions from different institutions.

Overhearing their conversation was a reminder that most applicants still believe that the university admissions process is an arbitrary decision based on grades and test scores alone. At the University of San Diego, our admissions review process is anything but arbitrary. In fact, it is the reason that the reading season, once described to me as the “dog days” of admissions, is a particularly busy (and stressful) time of year.  Each counselor here in the office is carefully reviewing every application, combing through essays, letters of recommendation and supplemental materials.  If admissions decisions were based solely on grades and test scores, our jobs would be far less time-consuming.

This is my second cycle of evaluating applications as an admissions counselor at USD.  While it is a stressful and busy time in our office, it is also a reflective and rewarding one.  The reading season is full of exciting moments that include opening an application from a student who I had the opportunity to meet in person while recruiting from high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.   When a student’s application communicates his or her strong interest in USD based on the information that I shared with them it reassures me that my recruitment efforts are making a difference.

This year, I had a unique experience during application season because I had something in common with all of the applicants: I was also an applicant. Though I am applying to a graduate program, I was in the same boat.  My own experiences during the application process were an excellent reminder of all of the work that goes into the application, as well as the anxieties that arise while waiting for a decision.

The “dog days” of admission will soon be over, and admissions decisions will soon be sent.  Until then, I hope that more students have their worries eased with the knowledge that the reading season is an especially focused time of year for admissions counselors.  The admissions committee is dedicated to ensuring that each application is read thoroughly. In their applications, students offer a window into their entire lifetime.  Our responsibility is to take great care in our review so that each student gets the chance that he or she deserves.

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