As a follow up to Dave’s file reading entries, Kelly Ochs – with the help of Bartley Sides – gives you a picture of file reading from an admissions counselor perspective.
When I first became interested in working in college admissions as a college senior, I sat down with the director of admissions at my undergraduate institution talk about the life of an admissions counselor. It was March, and his advice to me was to walk around the admissions office and ask admissions counselors about their careers. It was some of the best job-searching advice I got - the month of March is one of the toughest months in college admissions (and not just for the students who are eagerly waiting to hear back from the colleges to which they have applied.
Admissions is a cyclical job - in the fall we are on the road meeting with prospective students at college fairs and high schools, in January, we start reading applications for next year's incoming class, and over the summer, we get ready to do the whole thing again with a new class.
It's a life of extremes - just when I think I can't live out of a suitcase or eat at McDonalds any longer, it's time to start reading applications. And just when I feel like I can't read another application, it's time to start working with the next class.
Reading season isn't the most glamorous time of year - we read file after file on a computer screen until our eyes are bleary. Most of us look a little rough around the edges - tired eyes from staying up reading applications and a cup of coffee never far away. If you've tried to contact our office in the past month you've probably noticed that we really aren't available to speak to visitors like we generally are. The only way we can review applications, is to shut down to some extent and really focus on what students are sharing with us in their applications and selecting the students we will invite to be a part of our next incoming class out of an incredible pool of applicants.
Since many of you have applied and are eagerly waiting to hear back from us, I thought we could share a little bit with you about what this time of year is like in our office. Dave has given you a great overview of what we are looking for when we read applications and I hope you've been able to review it, but this entry will outline a typical morning in the office during "Reading Season" in admissions.
8:00 a.m. Arrive at the office - This is the first year we are reading applications on the computer. In the past, we've had paper applications, but this year, we read everything on a computer screen. We used to have applications stacked on our desks and floors of our offices; now we just have desktop computers. Our desks may look a lot cleaner, but we're just as busy!
8:10 a.m. Coffee run - Programs, information sessions, campus tours, emails to students and other things don't stop during file reading, so many of us read applications from home to try to keep up when other things take up our time in the office. This means a lot of late nights, so during this time of year, our office probably keeps the coffee shop across the street in business.
8:15 a.m. Back at our desks armed with caffeine and energy from the brisk walk outside, we're ready to start reading applications. Right now, in order to finish reading applications to have decisions to you April 1, we are each reading 20 applications a day. Given that our office responsibilities continue during reading season, we spend anywhere from 15-25 minutes reviewing each application and getting to know the student through their application. This is why the essays you've written and the activities you've shared with us are so important - since we do not offer interviews, the only way we can get to know you is through your application. Whether you are shadowing doctors, training for the upcoming cross country season, or working on your bug collection, we want to know what you are doing when you leave the classroom or over the summer because these are the things that help us get to know you.
10:45 a.m. Because our office also has a fitness challenge going on, many of us use our breaks as a chance to earn points for the fitness challenge. Last week, I took a walk down the hall to Bartley's office and found another one of our counselors, Tino Johnson, doing push ups during a break from reading.
11 a.m. After working up a bit of a sweat, it's back to file reading for the rest of the day with a break for lunch.
Over the course of reading season, counselors will read anywhere from 700-1000 applications. At least two counselors review each application, and sometimes a third counselor will also read the application. Although the number of applications we receive may seem overwhelming, each application we read is a chance for us to get to know a student as they share with us their experiences and interests with us.
For many of us in admissions, file reading can be a tough time of year because of the long hours and amount of applications. But it is also one of the most rewarding parts of our job. We've spent months helping students figure out where they want to apply, answering questions about UGA and about the application, and hearing about what they are interested in and what they are capable of in college. It's incredibly rewarding to read applications and find those students who are a perfect match for UGA - who have excelled in and out of the classroom and who are ready to tackle new challenges and make a difference at UGA.