Admission moves up announcement day using new reading method

On Friday, March 16, the College announced that it had offered admission to 1163 students for the Class of 2022, the most selective class yet. The admission rate fell yet again to 12.2 percent. This year, the admission decisions were moved up to March 15, one week earlier than the decision day of March 22 for the Class of 2021.

Most universities have a standard decision release date of April 1, but Director of Admission Richard Nesbitt ’74 hoped that an earlier release date would allow accepted students more time to ponder their choices of where to spend the next four years. In addition, the change gives admitted students an extra two weeks to finalize travel plans to visit the College during Previews.

In the past, the College admitted a select pool of students under Early Write, notifying them slightly earlier than the majority of the class. But as time went on, Nesbitt noted, the gap between Early Write and Regular Decision got smaller, blurring the lines between the two. Overall, Nesbitt explained, the “quality wasn’t any different between Early Write and Regular [Decision],” which led the Office of Admission to do away with Early Write entirely.

Instead, the release date for the Regular Decision was moved up this year. According to Nesbitt, this was made possible by a new, more efficient system that the Office of Admission adopted during the long period of sifting through thousands of applications. The system, Committee-Based Evaluation (CBE), is an efficient method for reading the many components of a college application. CBE was pioneered by the University of Pennsylvania, which was receiving such a mass of applications that technology needed to be brought in to help make up for a lack of human capital. What really captured the College’s attention was Swarthmore’s adoption of the CBE method. As a small, liberal arts college, the fact that the Swarthmore’s admission team enlisted the help of technology to narrow down potential applicants spoke volumes.

The method acts as a reader card to help weed out redundant information and distinguish the unique aspects of an application, allowing for faster reading. Nesbitt broke down the process: Two readers are assigned to a team. Each reader has a screen that shows, at the swipe of a finger, high school transcripts, extracurriculars, essays, awards, accolades and recommendation letters. The two readers on each team view the same application on separate screens, going through and highlighting interesting aspects about the candidates that distinguish them from others. If the team feels strongly about an applicant, the file is moved on to the final admission round, which is brought before the entire admission team.

Nesbitt said that this process matches up a more seasoned admission officer with a newer team member, providing different perspectives when viewing and analyzing the same application. Slate software, which powers the CBE, has really “streamlined the process,” explained Nesbitt, who no longer has to read applications day and night during the selection process. Now, in one day, the admission team can read three times as many applications as they could before the implementation of the CBE method.

This process is not only more efficient, but it also gives the admission committee more time to examine each and every strong application so that no one applicant is sacrificed in the name of efficiency. The process eases the burden on admission officers while helping the College select the best applicants from an ever-increasing pool.

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