Should applicants contact the admissions office to follow up on their application? At what point does this become a negative?
One of the things we look for in candidates is a sense of self-awareness and understanding, situational awareness. It can sometimes signal a lack of that situational awareness. It’s not going to dictate the outcome, it’s not going to make or break a candidacy, but it’s another little data point that can help us get a sense of a person’s overall profile. It’s one way for us to get a sense of who you are and how you engage with other people.
It is a balancing act. You do want to be engaged, you do want to let the school know that you’re interested, but at the same time you don’t want to go overboard. It’s different for every school. It also depends on where in the process this is happening. If you’ve just submitted your application and you don’t have any substantive update, typically applicants will just wait to hear from the school. If you’re waitlisted, when we give you the decision, we actually give you a frequently asked questions document that explains next steps. If you’re denied, we will often give you an opportunity to get feedback from us as well. Before you get a decision, while your application is still under consideration, the key touchstone should be if you have a material update or a material change in your application, you want to communicate that to us. Otherwise it tends to be not productive to weigh in or check in just for the sake of checking. If they’re just asking, ‘Where do things stand?’ or, ‘What’s going on?’ we do have a status page that they can refer to, to have a sense of the process. Not understanding how each school wants you to engage with them can be a signal to us about how well you’re going to be able to engage with others in the program and beyond.
Do you ever take risks on applicants?
We’ll sometimes take a chance. It’s not just because they’re different. It’s usually there is something that we find compelling in the candidate, and it’s usually not the case that the candidate will not be strong academically or professionally, or interpersonally, or any other metric. We might make a tradeoff if we see someone who maybe doesn’t have as strong an academic profile but they’ve really done well professionally. We might overlook that academic piece because we definitely will have something specific we can point to as to the reason why we feel this person has the potential to be successful in the program and beyond.
How often do you disagree with an admissions colleague over an applicant?
We actually use a consensus decision-making model. Everyone on the team has to agree. There are definitely disagreements in terms of how some people might view candidates. They tend not to be radically different – it’s more people providing different perspectives, and different insights into a candidate.
Two of the main areas that we are evaluating are someone’s academic background and then their professional background. It can be the case that in looking at the academic background we might really dig into the coursework, not just the overall grades or even semester grades but looking at the individual courses taken. Our admission committee is a dozen or so individuals with various academic backgrounds and expertise. We each will present our own perspective on someone’s candidacy. Sometimes we can have somewhat different perspectives based on the courses someone took, the progression that they made. In terms of professional experience, we can look at someone’s work history, their profession at a particular organization, or progression through a few different organizations. We can sort of talk about what we feel are the strengths and weaknesses of those transitions, and that particular work history.
What did an applicant do that made you want to shake them, physically or metaphorically?
In the interview process, a few times, this has happened to me and others: After the applicant finished the interview and we asked them if they have any questions, and their question is, ‘How did I do?’ It’s frustrating to have them ask that question because it’s obviously not the right question to ask. It gets to the self awareness, what’s appropriate to ask and what’s not appropriate. Not having the awareness to know that that’s not the question you should be asking I think can be telling.