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Should I value consistent excellence or better results at the end of a personal struggle? An underrepresented minority could be the phoenix, I decided. I scribbled this exchange in my notes: A reader ranks an applicant low because she sees an “overcount” in the student’s a-g courses.
Is the kindergarten aide or soup kitchen volunteer a leader?
And what about “blue noise,” what the admissions pros called the blank blue screen when there were no activities listed? ”IN personal statements, we had been told to read for the “authentic” voice over students whose writing bragged of volunteer trips to exotic places or anything that “smacks of privilege.”Fortunately, that authentic voice articulated itself abundantly.
Why was he not top-ranked by the “world’s premier public university,” as Berkeley calls itself? There, we practiced ranking under the supervision of lead readers and admissions officers to ensure our decisions conformed to the criteria outlined by the admissions office, with the intent of giving applicants as close to equal treatment as possible. In principle, a broader examination of candidates is a great idea; some might say it is an ethical imperative to look at the “bigger picture” of an applicant’s life, as our mission was described.
Apparently, our Indian-American student needed more extracurricular activities and engineering awards to be ranked a 1. An applicant scoring a 4 or 5 was probably going to be disappointed; a 3 might be deferred to a January entry; students with a 1, 2 or 2.5 went to the top of the pile, but that didn’t mean they were in.
I could see the fundamental unevenness in this process both in the norming Webinars and when alone in a dark room at home with my Berkeley-issued netbook, reading assigned applications away from enormously curious family members.
First and foremost, the process is confusingly subjective, despite all the objective criteria I was trained to examine. Could it be because he was a nonresident and had wealthy parents? A.’s, or a lot of applicants whose bigger picture would fail to advance them, or a lot of Jewish and Asian applicants (Berkeley is 43 percent Asian, 11 percent Latino and 3 percent black)?
I received an e-mail from the assistant director suggesting I was not with the program: “You’ve got 15 outlier, which is quite a lot.
Mainly you gave 4’s and the final scores were 2’s and 2.5’s.” As I continued reading, I should keep an eye on the “percentile report on the e-viewer” and adjust my rankings accordingly.
It’s an extreme version of the American non-conversation about race. To better understand stressors, I was trained to look for the “helpful” personal statement that elevates a candidate. Yet readers also want to know if a student has taken challenging courses, and will consider A. Even such objective information was open to interpretation.
Here I encountered through-the-looking-glass moments: an inspiring account of achievements may be less “helpful” than a report of the hardships that prevented the student from achieving better grades, test scores and honors. P.’s along with key college-prep subjects, known as a-g courses, required by the U. During training Webinars, we argued over transcripts.