Posted December 13, 2012 Atlanta, GA
The date 12/12/12 held an ominous significance for some, and many still have their eyes on the world’s potential end on 12/21/12. But for 9,000 high schoolers across the globe, it’s 12: 15 p.m. EST on 12/15 that’s the life-changing moment of the month – the moment when early admission applicants will find out if they’ve been admitted to Georgia Tech.
“The process is simultaneously draining and exhilarating,” said Director of Undergraduate Admission Rick Clark. Staff begin reviewing applications as they come in, but often a large influx of applications arrives within days of the deadline. After a minimum of two reads of each application, most are read a third time in a final cohort review.
“We think about the Institute’s goals and go back through to make sure we’re supporting the defined priorities,” he said, citing successful examples such as the increase in female enrollment in recent years. “The last two weeks are the most intense. We have all these kids’ names memorized.”
A fortune cookie, toffee and other cookies currently occupy Clark’s desk – all signs that decision season is in full swing.
“Thinking conservatively, if each applicant comes from a family of four, these decisions easily touch 36,000 to 40,000 people. It keeps in perspective how important the work is.”
All signs say this year’s decision-making has been more efficient than in the past. Twice-weekly Admissions Committee meetings haven’t gone past 7 p.m., and the admissions staff reviewed 6 percent more early action applications than last year.
Part of that increase came from international applicants. Due to the applicants’ high quantity and quality, the Admission office partnered with a third-party company to conduct interviews in China, giving staff additional, personalized material to review during the decision-making process.
When possible, Admission staff try to put a personal touch on a student's acceptance. Megan Hutchins, assistant director, had one applicant whose essay about a love of puzzles provided an opportunity to respond in a meaningful way. The admit will likely first learn of her acceptance online through BuzzPort but, with inspiration from coworker Ashley Brooks, a puzzle crafted from her acceptance letter will go in the mailed acceptance packet.
"It was one way to make it feel special for her and to see we really read her essay and care about the things that matter to her," Hutchins said.
Some applicants will not only get news from Georgia Tech on Saturday, but also from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which issues its early decisions at exactly 12:15 p.m. as well.
“You can see threads on College Confidential about how many kids will have two computer screens open at that moment, or will Skype with friends about the decisions,” said Clark.
This year’s early admission student profile includes a 4.0 average GPA, 1460/2155 SAT score, with a predicted GPA of 3.3 after freshman year at Tech. Some 55 percent of applicants were accepted, 21 percent deferred and 21 percent denied; the rest did not complete their application files.
Some departments might be fractured by the long hours and work of recent months, but the Admission staff members continue to enjoy each other’s company even outside their work.
Chris Briggs, assistant director, serves as commissioner for the office's fantasy football league. "[The league] brings us together and serves as a distraction from the day to day grind," he said.
Clark takes the staff's fellowship as an encouraging sign. “Sometimes when you go through something intense that forces this kind of teamwork, it binds folks together. I can tell they really enjoy what they’re doing.”
The camaraderie will need to carry into the spring; regular decision admissions will be announced March 9. Deferred applicants will have a two-week window to submit a deferral supplement form, which will be available Feb. 1. Those applicants, as well as those whose files were incomplete at the early action deadline, will also be notified on the regular decision date of March 9.