The Colgate Scene
March 2005


It is a snowy Sunday morning in mid-January. Most of the staff is in today, because we are in "reading season," poring over materials by the mail-bucket load: applications, high school transcripts, teacher recommendations, standardized test results, and everyone's favorite: the essays.

While every reading season is extremely busy, this year the challenge is greater than ever. At press time, Colgate has received 7,888 applications for the Class of 2009, an all-time record. Applications rose 20.4 percent over last year's pool of 6,551, and surpassed by 15.2 percent the previous record of 6,848, received for the Class of 2000.

We received more than half of our applications online, and most SAT and ACT scores come in electronically as well. Although the electronic age has created some efficiencies in our review process, it is still a labor-intensive -- and personal -- operation.

This leads me to the seemingly simple questions we are often asked that are, in fact, impossible to answer: "My son (or, my friend's child) has an A-minus average and SATs (or ACTs) of XXX. I do not want my child to go through the difficulty of applying if he will not be admitted. Could you let me know in advance what decision you will make?" -- or -- "Here are my daughter's SAT scores and academic average. Before she applies, could you tell me if she will be admitted, because I do not want her to be denied anywhere."

These questions assume that with electronic applications, decisions can easily be made by computer, but there is no line in the sand that one can cross statistically to automatically gain admission. Our applicants compete against others from around the world, and we cannot provide a response without reviewing a complete application. (Sometimes people also think applicants are only competing against themselves or those from the same high school, while in fact each student is considered within our entire pool.)

If we only looked at numbers, we would not seek so much other documentation from each applicant.

Even if a student applies electronically, at the very least he or she will have transcript(s), teacher recommendations, essays, and a hand-signed declaration of the application's accuracy. Some applicants send in many additional materials. Everything must be electronically "loaded" and placed in the applicant's folder. Sounds simple? Not really. This year, for example, four people with exactly the same name applied. In any given year, there are dozens of instances where at least two applicants share the same name -- just one more reason why we give personal attention to every application.

Briefly, our review process begins with a manual recalculation of the grade point average of every applicant, because although we believe all people are created equal, we do not believe all transcripts are equal even when they have the same GPA. The 3.9 GPA of a student who took "lighter" courses in weight training or gourmet foods is less competitive than the same GPA earned in what we call "solid" courses like AP Biology or AP Calculus. Therefore, we eliminate lighter courses when we recalculate the GPA. We also assign level of rigor to the student's overall courseload. Staff members read through each applicant's essays and teacher recommendations. Notes made by the first reader will be supplemented by a second reader, which becomes useful through our decision-making process.

Although reading season is far from over, we already know through our early decision admits and the regular decision applications we have been reviewing that the Class of 2009 will be a group of young men and women who will distinguish Colgate in wonderfully significant ways!

Gary Ross '77
Dean of Admission

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