How much time do admissions officers spend on each application?
Sometimes no one sees it.
One of the ways admissions directors are judged in their performance evaluation is by the increase in applications every year. If there is not an increase in applications, it is a black mark against them.
In an economic crisis where budgets and staffing in every department are being slashed, colleges must do more with fewer people. There are two ways in which they do this:
1. Each admissions counselor is under pressure to make a certain number of application decisions each day. With fewer admissions staff to “read” applications, less reading actually gets done in the process of making a decision.
In one situation I am aware of, the institution kept track of the numbers of applications read each day (it was all electronic – students were simply a bunch of numbers and calculations on a screen), and supervisors were required to monitor this output. My own “personal best” in terms of “applications read in a day” was 100. Yes: ONE HUNDRED. [Usually it was 50-80.] I can tell you this: Reaching one hundred decisions in a day did not allow time for reading essays or letters of recommendation.
2. Certain institutions with high volumes of applications are now using algorithms that make the decision on applications without anyone ever seeing the application. The same machine that generated all those marketing messages and letters to you from the time your PSAT information became available is now making the decision on your application. No human being ever touches or sees your file.
3. Some colleges – usually the small, private ones -- still use faculty committees and an individualized approach to application review. Many of these small colleges have a specific combination of characteristics in mind when looking for students. In some cases, it is very much a matter of outstanding grades, and grades only. But often, they will take more time with your application and discuss it with others.