I read "The Gatekeepers - Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College" by Jaques Steinberg during last night's ice storm. He is an education writer for the NY Times who turned his reporting on Wesleyan College admissions into a book.
(Wesleyan is a 'little Ivy' in Middletown, CT. Wesleyan is one of 3 little ivies: Amherst and Williams round out the list. Wesleyan is known for its great writing, literature and film studies majors, and is a classic New England small liberal arts college, in addition to being highly selective. Check out their notable alumni page - Pats coach Bill Bellichek is among the famous graduates!)
Wesleyan Admissions allowed Steinberg to shadow them for an admissions season. Unprecedented access to the interior workings and meetings of an admissions panel! It's a fascinating read for me, eager for inside information and access to the minds of the people who will decide the fate of Cheverus seniors. It reinforced what I've learned so far: grades, the rigor of course selection, and SATs matter the most, as well as a short list of extra-curriculars that students are passionate about, not a laundry list of many activities. (Too many activities leaves the college wondering who you are and if you are just padding your resume for the sake of college admissions)
Some new information for me: Wesleyan tries to rate applicants on two things that are hard to rate objectively: "commitment" and "intellectual curiosity".
Wesleyan is competing with the best schools in the country for top students, so they are interested in a student's willingness to put Wesleyan at the top of their list. Expressing that in the application is a good thing, if it is true that Wesleyan is your top choice. Taking time with the application and writing an essay that reflects who you really are is also an indication of your level of commitment to the school. The worst thing to do would be to quickly fill out the application and leave parts of it blank.
The level of intellectual curiosity is a tricky one to rank or rate, but the admissions officers look over your application and supporting materials with an eye toward someone who enjoys learning, takes risks, may be passionate about one subject, and is a good student. Letters of recommendation from teachers often mention examples of this elusive quality "intellectual curiosity" as do the college counselor's letter of recommendation. Taking courses outside of Cheverus would be an indicator of intellectual curiosity.
links verified 4/2013