Page 6 - KnightTime News Winter 2018
P. 6

KNIGHTtime News
 By Bea Hodavdekar
The recent spotlight on Harvard’s admission practices, as a result of the ongoing trial over its affirmative action policies, served as a reminder to educators, students, and families around the country about the use
of institutional priorities in holistic admission processes. As a concept,
it is a tricky thing to navigate as a college counselor. On one hand, it allows universities to build a class that is aligned with their mission
and the result is typically a cohort
of talented, diverse students. It
also gives the students who are an institutional priority one more point of leverage for their admission file. On the other hand, though, to people outside of admissions, institutional priorities seemingly obfuscate an already obscure process: Who gets to be an institutional priority and why? Do these priorities stay the same
year after year? How do we know if/ when it changes? The reality is that, unless courts decide to limit the use of institutional priorities, colleges
get to decide what their institutional priorities are and let that drive their admission process, which means
that institutional priorities will differ, depending on the college’s mission and needs.
When working at MIT, I was able to see how its institutional priorities drove its admission decisions. For example, the mission, mens et manus (mind and hand), was something that was of constant discussion
at the committee table. Was this
a student who liked working with their hands? Would this student use their knowledge to make a positive impact in society? As an admission officer on the team for diversity recruitment, I was in charge of recruiting talented, high achieving students of color who aligned with the mission of MIT. More broadly speaking, MIT looked for students who had a deep interest in math, beyond doing well in AP Calculus and AP Physics, did these students partake in the American Math Competitions? Were they invited
to the USA/Canada Math Camp? Were they part of math circles? Did they conduct research? Where was it published? Did they apply to the Regeneron STS competition? It
was abundantly clear to me that MIT wanted talented STEM students with the potential to make significant contributions in their respective fields.
At Stanford, it was also clear that institutional priorities drove their
admission decisions. Stanford’s motto is “Die Luft der Freiheit Weht,” which translates to, “The Wind of Freedom Blows.” At its core, I believe, Stanford looks for the student who has both intellectual depth and breadth. Given Stanford’s strength
in the humanities, admission
officers were excited about students who had an interest in this area,
and the questions they asked revolved around published papers, participation in literary contests,
or humanities-based summer programs. As a seasonal reader at UC Berkeley, I am tasked with looking for the “Berkeley spark”—or in layman’s terms intellectual curiosity—in applicants’ essays, extracurricular activities, and classes.
Now as a college counselor, I find myself circling back to my original point: institutional priorities are
a tricky concept to navigate, particularly because, in a lot of cases they benefit many students, but not all in any given applicant pool. As college counselors, one of our biggest priorities is to build and maintain relationships with universities, so that we can stay on top of trends and institutional priorities and help students find great fits and matches.

   4   5   6   7   8