Making Ivy League Admission Decisions

Those of you who have gone through or about to go through the so-called elite (a.k.a. ultra-competitive) college admissions process have no doubt wondered how your application was or will be evaluated. There are numerous sources available that offer insights into how this is done, but now there is an especially pertinent resource available to help you understand how things work.

Anatomy of a Decision, features key leaders discussing how they have made some of their toughest decisions over the course of their careers. The series' first edition, Decisions in the Admissions Office showcases an interview with Jeffrey Brenzel, former Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University, discussing the student selection process at Ivy League schools and what they're looking for in potential students. This is wonderful “inside" information that comes from someone who was on the front lines of the admissions game at its highest level.

Brenzel explains the elusive process by which admissions committees admit applicants and, by extension, how this approach can be applied to help make better business decisions. I would also view this wisdom to be applicable to making many of life's more complex decisions. Ours is no longer a simple world.

Brenzel notes the overall approach of elite admissions goal: “What [we're] trying to do is assemble the most interesting collection of people from the widest possible set of backgrounds and with the widest range of talents and aspirations."

Here's a sampling:

On the student selection process:

“We have our pick of an enormous range of talent and at capacity for future potential. What we try to do is put together a class that incorporates as much variety as we conceivable can…variety of every kind. To do that, we're trying to make sure that you can't come to Yale and find it a completely comfortable place."

“You're trying to meet an impossible set of criteria with a very limited number of places when you can command an applicant pool that's to die for. So very difficult for somebody who's not played a zero sum game before to have to make those tradeoffs and those choices."

On the application process:

“I'm often asked: 'what's the most important part of an application?' And my response is unsatisfactory: I don't know what the most important part of your son or daughter's application is going to be. I have to see the rest of the application to know which part is going to be most significant."

This is an interesting take on this traditionally mysterious process. If you're looking for some clues to help you solve your own admissions quest, this could be an important place to start.


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