Top Colleges Speed Read College Applications

Top Colleges Speed Read College Applications


By Admissions Expert, Dr. Paul Lowe

How long do you think it takes a top college to review your application? 24 hours, five hours or one hour? Try less than 8 minutes!!!

Due to the ease of applying to multiple schools, the number of domestic and international students applying to elite schools, the number of applications to these schools continues to grow. Additionally, top colleges have also increased recruitment from rural areas in the U.S. Last year the number of applicants using the Common Application was 902,000 and as of Jan 15, 2018, 898,000 applicants used the Common Application. Expect that number to increase after transfer admissions totals are determined!

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, admissions officers at top colleges do not have the time to read an applicant’s entire file. As a result, many top colleges are using a team/committee-based approach to review applications.

In this new model, rather than work alone as an individual admissions officer assigned to a recruitment territory, admissions officers are now reading applications in pairs. One reader is tasked with assessing and presenting the applicant’s academic credentials, reviewing transcripts, test scores, recommendations and course load and the other reader focuses on the “student’s voice”: essays, interviews and talents. The two-member team discusses and rates each applicant according to specific criteria based on the mission of the college and recommends a decision (reject or accept), typing notes into a system as they simultaneously discuss the applicant and concurrently reviewing each application on separate screens.

This new evaluation approach, initially developed by University of Pennsylvania, allows the admissions officer pairs to have an in-depth conversation about the applicant and render efficient decisions. It also allows them to read applications faster.  During team meetings there is a discussion on whether a candidate qualifies or not.

What does this mean for applicants who are applying to top colleges?

  • It’s getting even harder to be admitted to top colleges!
  • Every portion of a student’s application must now be able to highlight the student as well as somehow interconnected and interrelated with all other parts of the application.
  • Applying to top colleges is no longer just simply about top grades, AP courses, SAT scores and “jack-of-all-trades” and/or “drive by” extracurricular activities, Expensive Summer Experiences (ESE) helping the poor in foreign countries and Expensive Summer Camps (ESC) – Summer camps/programs at elite colleges.
  • Students must assume and understand admissions etiquette and cultural as well as emotional intelligence, as you never know who will be reading your application.
  • Retain the services of an admissions advisor who visits colleges at least once or even twice annually.
  • Retain the services of an admissions advisor who understands the codes, language, complex metrics, unforeseen challenges and uncertainty in college admissions.
  • Retain the services of an admissions advisor who understands and has the experience in preparing students whose applications are evaluated using the team/committee approach.

After four challenging years of college admissions preparation, your college decisions will be determined in 8 minutes or less! Like competitive sports, getting into top schools is about having a competitive edge!


Dr. Paul Reginald Lowe is the managing director and lead admissions expert at Greenwich Admissions Advisors. Tel. (203) 542-7288, and founder of Ivy League Admissions Advisors a part of the Pinnacle Educational Center Admissions Advisors Group network.

Dr. Lowe specializes in providing exclusive concierge-type admissions advisory services for families and students who are interested in applying to top private schools, Ivy League and highly selective colleges and combined BS/MD programs. Dr. Lowe also helps students gain admissions into their top choice private schools and colleges after they have been wait-listed and rejected. Dr. Lowe and his Greenwich Admissions Advisors team provide house-calls for families with extremely busy schedules who can’t come to their office.