Admission, as you might have picked up by now, is a pretty cyclical field. At any given point in the year, chances are we’re doing something entirely different than we were just a month before. Sometimes the difference of a week can mean a change in focus in an Admission Officer’s life, swapping from conducting a plethora of interviews to traveling around the country visiting high schools, shifting gears from planning programs like Fall Visitors’ Day to prepping for another event months down the line. Some parts of the seasons go fast – travel season is gone and over before you know it, despite being three to four weeks long – while others are slower, more painstaking. Of all the seasons though, the longest, and in some ways most rewarding, is reading season.
What’s reading season? Simple! It’s the time of year when students have submitted applications, and we as officers begin the work of reading through them. While reading season will look different from office to office and school to school, the common factor is that for a school like Whitman (i.e., a liberal arts college), reading season will begin in mid to late November, and will run all the way through February or early March. During this time, we go through a huge number of reads, ranging from Early Decision Applications (remember those? They come in during November for ED1, and mark the start of reading season), to Regular Decision apps, all the way up to Transfer applications. It’s a huge process, but as I mentioned is one which is also extraordinarily rewarding.
Why is it rewarding? Again, simple – reading applications is a rewarding process for us because we get to see the culmination of our prospective student’s hard work, the end result of their college searches. In some cases it’s the final touch on a relationship we’ve been building with students from our areas or territories, students we’ve gotten to know throughout the process through interviews, through school visits, through emails and phone calls. Most of all though, it’s a humbling experience, humbling as we recognize that of the hundreds and hundreds of schools in the United States and abroad, these students have chosen to apply here, to Whitman College.
To give some context on our process, each application is assigned to an officer who is designated as that student’s territory manager, their officer tasked with knowing the specific context of that student’s application. Context means a huge number of different things, including but not limited to the school that student attends, the type of background the student is coming from, the expected quality and number of applications from a given geographic region, to whether that student has had contact with us as a school. This territory manager provides a first read on the application with all of that context in mind, making sure that the student gets a full picture painted of who they are, what they’re about, and where they’re coming from. With the first read completed, the application is passed to a second reader, who double checks the work already done, and provides a second opinion. It’s an in depth process which we love, as it gives every applicant their fair share of time in the sun.
So what does reading season look like? For us, reading season is a break from our normal routines. Given that we at Whitman read digitally (gone are the days of paper applications piling up to the rafters), we have the ability to read from anywhere. While we do still have other responsibilities to take care of such as coordinating our student workers in the office, planning other events, giving information sessions and answering phone calls, this means that when we aren’t focusing on another task we have the freedom to read from a location of our choice. As long as we have a computer and as long as there’s internet, you’ll find our officers reading all over Walla Walla. For the sake of fun, I’ve asked our officers to provide some selfies of themselves reading in their favorite locations. Enjoy!
That’s all for now. To the class of 2020 whose applications are being read: rest easy. It’s your job right now to take a deep breath, breathe a sigh of relief, and relax. Maybe celebrate a little bit. Your part in this process is done for now, and until decisions come out in the spring, your work is done. Right now, the rest is on us.