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You’re doing it wrong by David duKor-Jackson

Some constructive advice from the Director for filling out the application

You may have noticed that the application for the class entering in 2023 is now live. While some have jumped at the chance to scope out the changes and preview the short answer prompts, a much larger group is likely to wait until the very last minute. While I certainly won’t extol the virtues of procrastination, as long as you meet the deadline, it really doesn’t matter (e.g. has no impact on our decision) when you choose to submit. It is, however, worth noting that If you experience any last minute technical issues, like an unfortunately timed power or internet outage that prevents you from clicking submit before 11:59 PM EST (technically, EDT for EA) ticks away, you will likely have no one to blame but yourself.

There are some things about how you complete the application that can adversely impact our review. I have highlighted a handful of my least favorites below.

  • Failure to follow directions: This one never gets old.  I have to commend the ingenuity and innovative spirit that enables applicants to find inventive new ways to complete the application both in ways we did not intend and in ways entirely contrary to our explicit guidance.  While the sheer number of ways that applicants find to not follow directions is impressive, we are not actually impressed by the inability to follow directions.
  • Incomplete information:  There are a number of questions that are completely optional for any number of reasons and are clearly labeled. While there is a specific rationale for every question that we ask, not everything is equally applicable for every applicant. If there is something optional that you would prefer not to respond to, feel free to skip it. For everything that you do respond to, we really prefer to have complete information. I know some feel like it may be a hassle to list out all of their high school courses and grades, but we really appreciate it when you do, and really don’t appreciate it when you don’t.
  • Overused metaphors, clichés and responses devoid of thoughtful reflection: Responding to questions about cultural background by talking exclusively about food or indicating that you don’t have any cultural background probably galls me more than most. Describing ones background as a recipe is not nearly as clever or original as many think it is, particularly when what we are really interested in is insight into the lived experience of applicants and a better understanding of how they navigate the world. Technically, the prompt may have been responded to, but often without providing any information that is actually useful to us.  We want you to be thoughtful and creative, but I, for one, prefer substance over sizzle. Try not to overthink it.
  • Critiquing the application and/or process within the application: Another classic. It is difficult for me wrap my mind around what someone might actually want to accomplish by complaining about the application on the application. Perhaps it is merely subconscious anxiety bubbling up to the surface, which I can certainly understand. I know the process can be stressful, but if you really need to vent about the process, please send a note or email directly to me.  While that may result in me being aware of who you are for the wrong reason, at least you can avoid subjecting the entire admissions committee to your well-intended, albeit misguided, constructive criticism.
  • Sending lots of extra stuff: So while this technically falls under the general category of “failure to follow directions,” it really warrants a call-out of its own because of how problematic it is. Last year, we received over 33,000 applications, and far too many included additional supplemental information that we did not ask for.  Most would agree that we already require quite a bit of information, particularly when considering what is asked for on the application, in addition to transcripts, test scores and recommendations. We recognize that some feel as though we won’t have a complete picture of them as applicants and individuals.  In that regard, they aren’t wrong.  There is probably no college application process that can comprehensively capture and evaluate an individual in their entirety.  Our process is designed to elicit enough information for us to assess preparation, match, and the specific ways that applicants might contribute to our community aligned both with our institutional goals and mission. That being said, if what one wants to send doesn’t fit within either the confines of our application or the categories of: visual art & architecture, maker, music & theatre arts, or research — for which portfolios can, and should be submitted via SlideRoom, then it likely won’t be especially meaningful in our review process.