Take a moment to ask yourself this question: Why did you get into the College of William and Mary? Was it your superb academic record? Was it your impressive writing ability? Your captivating wit? Your mission trip to Haiti? Your passion for juggling?
According to the admissions website, “There’s no single formula for getting into William & Mary.” Go to a few admissions information sessions and you will hear a lot about the importance of being a unique person, a passionate person, a driven person. The College is trying to assert that an applicant is more than a test score, and this is honorable, but the admissions staff needs to understand the implications of this idea as the College’s admission process evolves.
This year, the College announced that it would offer on-campus interviews in the fall as well as the summer. Increasing the number of applicants who interview will increase the influence of the interview on the application. This is just one example of how the system of values upon which college admissions is based upon is shifting. While academics used to be considered the main factor in college admissions, recently colleges appear to be putting more of an emphasis on factors that add dimension to an applicant beyond tests and grades.
In essence, colleges are no longer judging you entirely on your academic performance, but are also judging your character. Your worth as a human being is open to critique, and this is an incredibly lofty responsibility to take on. Colleges need to examine and to define exactly what these values are instead of throwing around ambiguous statements.
Deciding on a collective system of values used to formally judge individuals should not be taken lightly. At the very least, these values need to be defined objectively so that admissions decisions are based as little as possible upon the individual bias of interviewers and admissions staff. These values should be the values upon which the College is based. These values should be the values that make up the College’s moral framework, bind its community and uphold its honor system.
The College also needs to realize that many high school students will base their actions on and structure their time around getting into college. If colleges keep expanding the use of evaluations like interviews, applicants will focus more on trying to fit the profile of a successful applicant than on pursuing activities about which they are truly passionate — and shouldn’t true passion be one of those fundamental values that the College is centered around?
I am not advocating for factors like interviews to be eliminated from the admissions process altogether. However, when personality is fair game in admissions, the College has a responsibility to carefully examine its goals and to articulate them clearly.