Preparing for College

Why Do Admission Officials Ask for Graded Papers?

Question: Why do colleges require that, when you "submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year," it must have teacher comments and grade?

As annoying and frustrating as the admissions process can be, this is actually one of the parts of it that makes some sense. By submitting a paper with teacher comments and a grade, you give admission officials a tiny window into the standards at your high school. They can see how complex--or not--your assignments are and how high--or low--the teacher sets the bar when critiquing your work.

Here, it is really your school and your teacher that are being evaluated, not you. If your teacher misses obvious errors or applauds you for making simplistic points (or even makes spelling errors in the comments--God forbid!), then admission officials will have a greater understanding of the environment from which you are coming. This can put low test scores in perspective or garner greater respect for high ones. Conversely, if the teacher seems to be quite demanding, this will help admission officials better understand--and respect--the challenges you've faced.

Of course, admission folks do realize that standards will vary from class to class so that one teacher's remarks don't necessarily reflect the norms of the entire faculty. The graded paper you send is not likely to have any significant impact on your final admission verdicts, but it WILL enable your admission evaluators to learn at least a little bit about your school climate.