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'Tis the (Reading) Season

November 8, 2013

Although we no longer read paper files, the virtual stacks of applications are no less deep!

The month of November marks the point in the calendar when the Office of Admissions moves from "travel season" to "reading season." It's an exciting transition in the office because we begin to read applications and learn about some of the fascinating students that are interested in Pomona. It's also thrilling because the work we do now, in November and December, begins to help us shape what the Class of 2018 will look like.

I always enjoy reading applications at this time of the year because it serves as an opportunity to "get my feet wet," so to speak. That's not to say that I've never read applications before, but working with a relatively small number of applications (about 700 early decision applications) lets me, and my coworkers, get ready for the thousands that we'll have to read starting in January.

Reading season is a demanding few months. A former colleague of mine described reading season as the equivalent of finals week in college. It's an apt metaphor, except that in this case we're talking about several weeks! And, instead of cramming for an exam, we're trying to cram in as many applications that we can physically read in a day. The number of applications that we might read in a day can vary, but at Pomona, we expect the admissions staff to read at least 20 applications per day. This may not sound like a big number, but when you consider that we might spend about 30 minutes reading each application, that's about 10 hours per day. That's also not factoring in that, on average, an admissions staff member is responsible for first-reading about 650 applications. If we didn't need sleep, or have to worry about other work... or life, for that matter, we could probably finish application reading in about two weeks. That doesn't happen, however.

Basically, we put in a lot of time into the process. It's worth it though. As we read applications, we want to admit students that place a high value on the types of academic and social experiences that they can have at Pomona. This sounds relatively easy, but the challenging part is that we're overwhelmed with applicants that meet this criteria. This means that we have to carefully review each and every application so that we fully appreciate the interests and motivations of every applicant. It's time well spent because we aim to be thorough, but it also means that we need as much time as possible.

Just like students have worked hard to put together an application that best represents them, the admissions staff works hard to put together a class that best represents Pomona.

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