Who typically reads admissions essays

–post by Dr. Kristen Willmott

The November 1 early deadline has come and gone. Our seniors are done with their college applications and essays often before senior year even starts, as we want them to focus on their courses this fall, not essay writing at 10pm on a Friday. We realize, however, that many seniors around the world are in full blown panic mode with the November 15th early deadline right around the corner and regular applications due in January.

Recent data tells us the number of students who are preparing over 10 applications in the U.S. and internationally is climbing each year. Students are not being focused in their research, campus visits, or assessment of admissions odds.


Some high schools are now even limiting their student’s number of college applications. High schools and others are fighting back against students who want to send out over 10 applications (they want students to be thoughtful about their applications and not random, focusing on quality and not quantity), but the bottom line is that the Common App makes it too easy to apply to 20 colleges with the click of a button, once you’ve ensured your supplements are in and your application fees are paid.

U.S. and international students applying to 10-20 colleges a piece have inserted an insane level of competition into an already crowded admissions arena. In 2015-2016, over 920,000 students used the Common App, more than double since 2008-2009.

Naviance noted recently that 16.5 percent of seniors using the system indicated they intended to apply to 11 to 20 colleges. We would say that’s a waste of effort, essays and time. We work with our students to create a clear application strategy that helps them utilize early action, early decision I and II, rolling and regular rounds. That’s typically 5-7 colleges MAX.


Even worse, colleges continue to buy data from the College Board, etc. and market to students via mail and email to try and boost the number of applicants and thus slim their acceptance percentages. Colleges contact students with high test scores offering to waive application fees and while this appears to be an indication of acceptance, it’s a ploy to boost applications. Don’t fall for it!

Many families who ask us questions about college applications and super competitive acceptance rates don’t realize that the amount of applications top colleges are now receiving is extraordinarily high. Admissions offices often use an Academic Index Calculator, establish unofficial cut-offs when it comes to the quantitative pieces of an application, and hire part-time temporary/seasonal admissions readers JUST to help them sift through thousands of applications in the round one review.


Don’t just take our word that top colleges actually hire temps to read your applications–check out the following list of colleges and universities that have just posted job listings seeking to hire temporary or part time seasonal admissions readers for the 2016-2017 admissions season (as of November 2016):

  • Cornell University
  • University of Rochester
  • Pace University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • College of William & Mary
  • UC Berkeley

Check out Cornell’s job description: “Seasonal Readers are expected to commit 20-40 hours per week (including training) to reviewing 500-1000 freshmen applications from early December through early March . . . [they] are required to read at a pace that allows for the completion of a weekly target file number between December and early March. The number of hours required and the number of files to be read may vary slightly depending on the month, with January and February experiencing the highest volume. The Seasonal Readers must attend a 1-day reader training and be ready to begin reviewing files by mid-December.”


One day of training to review 1,000 freshman applications while being sure to keep your pace up. As we so often tell our students, you have only a few minutes to convince a first round admissions reader that you’re worthy of a second read. Every piece and every word of your application counts!