Overheard in Committee: What Happens in Committee Doesn’t Stay in Committee

Admit It!  You think the work of admission committees is veiled in a shroud of secrecy; maybe you even think there’s a secret password used to enter and exit the committee meetings.  While committee meetings are definitely confidential they are not exactly the war room at the White House.  In an attempt to provide some insight into the decisions we make and how we make them we blog during committee about what goes on in committee; this isn’t Vegas after all.  So the “Overheard in Committee” blogs are back for the next several weeks.

Overheard in Committee yesterday: I can forgive a C in BC Calc in 11th.

Many people believe you have to have a perfect 4.0 to get into W&M and other selective colleges and universities.  We’ve heard students say that even a 4.0 isn’t good enough for W&M.  Don’t get me wrong, we like 4.0s (or whatever the comparable GPA is at your school) … in other words we’re attracted to high-achieving students.  But all of us deans were high school students too, and none of us were perfect high school students.  We tripped and stumbled and struggled with courses along the way to our colleges of choice and we recognize that today’s students do too.

While we recommend that students get good grades in order to make themselves the most competitive applicants possible, we also evaluate a student’s transcript within the context of the courses taken.  We recognize that students who really challenge themselves may sometimes be prone to a lower grade here or there.  Yesterday we were reviewing the transcript of a student who was multiple years advanced in math, and they earned a semester C when taking AP Calculus BC in the 11th grade.  Several of the deans never took calculus in high school, nevertheless as a junior.  Given that it’s generally considered to be the most challenging class offered at high schools, we can excuse a little blip on the transcript.

The point of this blog is not to say that we’re all about Cs on transcripts; we’re not.  But it’s to say that everything about your application is considered in context (school, regional, experiential, personal … you name the context).  That’s what holistic review is all about.  You’re not considered in a vacuum; you’re considered based on who you are, where you’ve been and what type of application you put forward.

And as I hear the Committee calling to resume for this morning’s deliberation I will wrap up this installment of “Overheard in Committee.”  More to come soon as the dialogue continues.

Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ’09
Senior Assistant Dean of Admission