It’s April. The flowers are blooming, the weather is warm. High school students are touring the campus. Yep. It’s that time of the year again, time for aspiring high school students to make their selection as to which campus they will call home. And it’s also time for those in admissions to cringe … or so one would assume.
Admissions officers have probably the hardest job on campus. I don’t mean to say the UC has a backwards admissions system, but what I mean is the new crop of graduating seniors/incoming freshmen continue to change and make things so much more difficult. Today it is no longer the cookie cutter student who maintains grades and writes a good personal statement. No, it is much worse.
Case in point, I had the “privilege” of meeting a family of three the other day while in the office. I am no expert on admissions, but they came in with questions about admissions to UCI and were absolutely adamant to get answers. Like many, I began to stereotype, labeling the mother and father as typical Asian tiger parents while the daughter was left reeling in the pain and embarrassment of her parents’ endeavors. What struck me though was her glib nature, clearly articulating what it was that her parents wanted as if it had been a rote script, something that had been pounded into her head since birth. It seemed her parents were going to do whatever was necessary to get her into a top- quality university. She was only a sophomore, yet was at UCI to tour on a weekday (or she was on spring break…who knows).
What ensued was a very common conversation about admissions and some things students should focus on such as writing good personal statements. They kept coming at it from different angles no matter which way I spun it. “What if she only does three years of basketball instead of four?” “How many extracurriculars should she be involved in?” “What is considered a competitive GPA?” “How many AP courses should she take?”
I empathized with her, because I had gone through the full gamut before, though probably not as severe as my older brother.
Then what came next led me to the conclusion that the parents weren’t only serious but felt it their mission to get her into university. We were discussing personal statements and the mother interjected, asking about paying people to write it.
I coughed to take a brief moment of composure before I could answer. I am sure she knew that was illegal, and I am sure she knew that I knew the same thing, but she didn’t refrain from asking. Only reluctantly did I give them my business card as they left the building to continue touring the campus.
My job decrees that I go through high school and community college transcripts to update student profiles. Some of the activities these students participate in are absolutely astounding considering their ages as well as the GPA’s they maintain. It seems as if practically every single student in the system has merit.
How the hell do admissions officers do it? What used to be GPA and SAT score has turned into a monstrosity.
Applications can no longer be called applications, simply because they aren’t; in reality, a more appropriate term would be a student’s magnum opus, his entire body of work from the moment he was born to the moment he decided college was for him.
And the problem? He has to make sure his magnum opus is that much better than that of the person next to him, who happens to be valedictorian as well as student body president and community volunteer extraordinaire.
The easy way to filter would be to just accept everybody, but we know that utopian view cannot happen.
Admissions officers have to lord over thousands and thousands of applications, checking every single AP class taken or internship done and then decide if the student should be admitted to the school or not. Yes, mistakes are made — let’s be honest you know you’ve met some people in your classes who have made you say “wtf” — but that doesn’t belittle the fact that between the months of January and April, admissions officers probably work the hardest job on campus.
Seniors complain about submitting applications while admissions officers cringe about receiving them. Someone suggested I work in Admissions. No thank you.
David Vu is a fourth-year public health policy major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.