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College Admissions Q & A

TimeNov. 17, 2011

from:Allen, Myra

to:All Students

Q.It has long been understood that there are five main facets of an application: transcript, recommendations, standardized test scores, extracurriculars and essays. If a student’s transcript is in the weaker half of the applicant pool, but the remaining four facets are quite exemplary, will an elite college be willing to take a chance?


Mr. Poch of Pomona: The more selective the institution, the more likely the decision for admission may turn on things not so easily quantified. If the application suggests strong basic competence academically, the other qualities of a candidate become interesting and often determine the outcome. I am interested in both where a student is at the current moment as well as making a guess about where they may be in a year or two or three. Perfect records in high school don’t always suggest perfect students in college. A student who had a bump along the way may know more about how and why they learn than one who has been grinding along without a second thought. Glowing references, strong tested ability, leadership strength and a terrific interview can sometimes outweigh a transcript with a glitch or two but in highly selective environments are not likely to override a real mess of a record.

Mr. Brenzel of Yale: Weaker transcripts face tough sledding in a highly selective college environment. They don’t automatically disqualify a candidate for us, but you have to remember that we have many thousands of applicants with extremely strong transcripts who are also just as exemplary in the other ways that count.