Do admissions officers know each high school relatively well?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

Do admissions officers know each high school relatively well?

Jenny Rickard
Chief Enrollment Officer Bryn Mawr

Do admissions officers know each high school relatively well?

Here is my video response to the question.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Admissions Officers' Knowlege of High Schools

The degree to which admissions officers know high schools is a function of several factors, including their years working in a particular geographic region and the previous applicants to that college. I remember attending an information session with my son and being so impressed that the young admissions officer knew his school by name. Remember that reps are assigned geographically, and part of their job task is to travel within that region, especially in the fall. Through various stops and college fairs, they get to know various schools in their regions well. Of course if previous years' students have gained admission, the admissions officers may be more aware of the school. Sometimes, guidance counselors may wish to introduce themselves to admissions reps, particularly if they have candidates whom they think would be of interest to a particular college.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

School Reports and Visits

Admissions officers usually have specific regions of the country for which they are responsible. That means that they don't need to know the merits and strengths of every high school in the U.S.! They are focused on smaller regions. Admissions officers also have the benefit of studying the school reports submitted with each application. School reports provide admissions officers with information regarding the strength of curriculum, student achievement levels (grades/test scores), and other information like extracurricular offerings for the applicant's school. That way -- admissions officers can get an idea of the quality of the high school -- and also -- where the applicant falls within the student body. Admissions officers also visit specific schools and participate in regional/local college fairs so they can also get to know high schools in these ways as well.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Admission territories

Typically admission staff are given a region or area of the country that they are responsible for. This means they are the ones who travel to those territories, do the first read on those applications, interview the students from their area. This allows the college to better understand the circumstances the students are coming from. In addition, schools include a profile when they send the transcript. This document shows the rigor of the curriculum offered, average test scores, etc. for that school. The more students that matriculate at the college from the same high school, and depending on how they perform, the more knowledge the admission committee has to go on.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

They do in their "territory"

Most college admission offices are set up by regions or territories so the admission officer responsible for that territory knows most of the high schools well. If they don't know the school, they read the School Profile that is sent with the school credentials and will also call the counselor to learn more if needed.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Colleges Work Hard to Know Schools and the Students

Most college structure their offices in such a way that certain people are responsible for certain areas, and thus they develop a familiarity and understanding of the schools from which they may receive applications. This helps them better understand the curriculum, know which co-curricular activities are the most meaningful, and in general helps them to read applications with a far more informed eye. All of this is magnified if a student attends a school that sends large numbers of students to the college on an annual basis. At the same time, wide ranging territories, staff turnover, and a limited number of students applying on a regular basis can limit the knowledge and that is why the school profile is an important resource for providing context for a student’s application and record.

Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

Yes...But Do They Know You?

Short Answer: Seasoned admissions officers who have spent years working at colleges in the same state will know your high school fairly well. However, this can cause them to prejudge your application. Detailed Answer: There is a great deal of prejudice in college admissions – as many different attitudes as there are counselors -- so the fact that an admissions officer knows your school can work both for or against you. High schools that are in socioeconomically challenged areas are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to college admissions. Counselors who have personal prejudices against certain ethnicities or economic backgrounds will lean toward not admitting students from those high schools. I remember a student from a high school in Jersey City, a famously poor, urban, multi-ethnic area. Her academic record was straight As in a strong academic program. She had maxed out everything she could take. She was Valedictorian. However, her high school did not offer SAT prep courses, and clearly her family could not afford to pay for individual coaching. Her combined SAT verbal and math score was 900, well below minimum admissibility. I pushed her file up the line and said to the associate director, “YOU be the one who can’t sleep at night for denying this student.” Eventually we admitted her, but the discussions about it revealed the deeply held prejudices of individual staff members. Conversely, students from high income communities are expected to have benefited from all the privileges and advantages afforded to their high school students. This can make it difficult for a student whose academic record is weak. The assumption is that the student is either 1) too dumb to make it at the college, or 2) lazy. The fact is that any number of issues can play into the failure of a student’s academic record. These factors can make it difficult to see the student’s real talent – hidden traumas, family or personal illnesses, divorce, abuse, romantic disappointments, late-blooming maturity, etc. The counselor may assume that the student had all the advantages in the world, so there must be something wrong with this student to not have achieved at a level similar to his/her peers. The bottom line is this: Admissions counselors that know your high school and community may base their opinion of YOU on past students who have applied from your school – which has very little to do with who you are or who you will be. A final story: At the NACAC conference this past September, the Princeton rep on the College Interview seminar panel blurted out that Princeton simply “never takes students from West Virginia.” Then she stumbled all over herself trying to take back her words. It would have been funny had it not been so smug and disturbing.

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

What do admissions officers know about your high school?

In my role as a college consultant for a large high school I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of admissions representatives. Usually colleges assign admissions officers to territories and they cover the same high schools year after year, though changes definitely occur. Each high school sends what is called a "high school profile" to every college where their students apply. The profile gives detailed statistics about the high school demographics and curriculum. In that way admissions officers can make fair comparisons between high schools. For example if you attend a rural high school in North Dakota they know that the number of AP classes available for a student to take will not be the same as a high school in suburban Washington DC for example. They would therefore not expect a student to have taken as many AP classes if they were not available to them. Francine Schwartz, M.A., LPC, NCC Founder and President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Janelle Braverman
Educational Consultant Independent University Advisors, LLC

Do admissions officers know each high school relatively well?

It depends. Admissions Officers spend time every year traveling around the country and the world visiting high schools and meeting students. Often times an admission officer will have a designated region they become very familiar with. When I worked as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College, I travelled around the southeast of the US as well as Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Costa Rica. If I saw an application come across my desk from these places I would often times have a relatively good idea of where the student was coming from. That said, given that over 22,000 students applied to Dartmouth for a place in the class of 2015, it is reasonable to understand that most of the applications that an admissions officer will read will come from somewhere they haven't visited. In these cases, your school's profile becomes an important way to understand student context.

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University

Do admissions officers know each high school relatively well?

It all depends on how long the admissions officer has been in the business. If the admissions staff is new, they may not know a whole lot about the high schools that they visit. High Schools do get ranked though. Admissions Counselors do see high school rank. So, if you attend a school that is ranked highly, we most likely know about it. When admissions counselors come to a high school, we not only hope to meet with students, but with school counselors as well so that we can get a feel for the school and get to know the type of academic environment you are coming from.