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a student blog

Admission: Behind the Scenes

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A quick note before I begin: I sort of forgot that I had a blog over Winter Break, and it’s taking a lot of effort to remember now that I’m back in classes. So I’m sorry for the lack of updates so far! I promise to attempt to update more regularly over the next semester or so.

As I’ve mentioned before, I work at the Whitman Office of Admission as a clerical assistant, which basically means that I have two general jobs: 1) mail and 2) data entry. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s a lot more fun that it sounds, and it’s really interesting to see the application process from this side of things. Occasionally I also help out by covering the front desk at lunch, answering phones and greeting visitors. As you can imagine, it’s been quite busy around here the last few weeks, with EDII decisions going out and RD applications coming in. We’ve gotten a ton of calls from worried students and parents wondering if all their application materials are in, and one today surprised me. I had a parent on the phone and was explaining to them that their student’s materials were probably not missing, but as they could imagine, our office was a bit behind in processing. To which the parent replied, with no small hint of sarcasm, “Yeah, I bet.”

A year ago, I could have seen myself saying something like that, but now that I know how everything works, it seemed a little unfair. As if this parent assumed we were sitting around all day throwing their child’s application materials into haphazard stacks and laughing at their pain. Contrary to popular belief, the Admission Office is not populated by a race of particularly sadistic demons who just want to lose your things and see you fail. I will admit that that characterization may have crossed my mind last year when I was an applicant. But really, honestly, truly, everyone who works at the Admission Office is just as nice as everyone else at Whitman–extremely. So, to prove to you that we actually are working on this stuff, I’d like to run you through the application process at the filing end.

1. Stuff comes in the mail. And by stuff, I mean literally tons of stuff. The mail comes in multiple times a day, and every time I’ve witnessed the deliveries, they’ve been mountains of letters, transcripts, scores, applications, supplements, recommendations, and school reports. Sometimes the stacks are over a foot high. And it’s not like it can be sorted in advance–you can’t open transcripts unless you’re actually processing them, or else they become unofficial and therefore pretty useless. So one person comes down to the front desk, hauls the mail upstairs, and proceeds to…

2) Open all of it and sort it into its proper components. I can barely open one letter without giving myself a paper cut, let alone hundreds.

3) Take the giant stack of mail and scan all of it. I was in charge of this on Saturday (yes, Saturday, we’re working weekends now to make up for being so behind). The scanning part wasn’t the difficult part–it was the time it took. When you have a stack of 100+ documents to scan in and a scanner that can only handle a few sheets at a time, it takes quite a while to get everything loaded onto the computer. And then once they’re scanned in, you still have to…

4) File them. This, this is the part which really, really takes time. This involves manually separating the individual scanned documents from the massive scanned batch that includes all the documents. So you start by figuring out what is what–is this someone’s transcript, or is it part of their school report? Is it a teacher recommendation, or one from a community member, or one from a counselor? Once that’s decided, the document has to be filed under the appropriate label, in the appropriate student’s file. Once all the student’s materials are in, we combine them into one giant application, which then is sent to their admission officer.

5) Once we have personally received, processed, scanned, filed, and combined all of an applicant’s materials, we send them a letter telling them their application is complete. Unfortunately, this also takes time, as the letters and envelopes have to be printed, then the applicant’s admission officer has to sign each letter, then a student worker like me folds and stuffs each letter into an individual envelope, which is then sent off to the student.

If my math from last week was right, with 3,000+ applicants and 30,000+ pieces of mail, that is a lot of stuff to do in a very short amount of time. So please, forgive us!

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