How much time do admissions officers spend with each application?
Probably no more than 20-30 minutes, if that long.
Time spent on each application varies from campus to campus. Industry average states that 15 min/application is pretty typical. This is why you don’t want to write a loooong essay, add extra materials they don’t want to see, or otherwise burden the reader with excess information.
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.
The application review process varies from school to school, so there will always be significant variations in the time and attention that an application receives. Too, the applications and the applicants vary so that impacts the amount of attention as well. Many applications are “no brainers”—either to admit or to deny–and they do not need the same amount of time or debate that other, more middle of the pack ones do. In the end, it is less a matter of pure time then the quality of the review and given the importance to the institution of the admission process, a process that creates a class and shapes the culture of the school, applicants should feel confident that their application received a fair and through review by experienced, dedicated professionals.
It really depends on where you apply. Some schools will spend just a few minutes. That is all they have time for. They will look over your transcript, check out your test scores, glance over your essay and rec letters, check out your extra-curricular activities and make a judgement. Some schools take longer at doing this, others do it really quickly. It depends on what the school values. Is it a transcript or test scores or is it something else?
Here is my video response to the question.
As you probably guessed, it depends on the school. For some large schools like UCLA, chances are that your application won’t get much more than 10 minutes by 2 people. (They have to read over 50,000 applications after all!
At smaller schools, your application might get a bit more time — perhaps 15-30 minutes for each reader. Depending on the school, there may be more than 1 or 2 readers per application.
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