Admissions: Accept, Reject, or Waitlist in 8 Minutes!

Posted On 20.05.2019 | Blog

It’s understandable if you’re shocked by what we’re about to tell you…

Your university admissions decisions could all come down to an 8-minute review. 

That's right.

After all those hours spent studying for classes and standardized exams, founding and leading extracurricular activities at school, and perfecting your university applications – the ultimate decision could all be made in just 8 minutes.

Sometimes, it’s even less!

In this post, we’ll explain how and why your application is reviewed so quickly and give you tips on how your application can make the most of your precious time.

8 Mins! How is That Even Possible?

The Common Application. Have you heard of it?  

We’re sure you have since pretty much all of the US universities you apply to use it to streamline the application process. With everything centralized in one platform, it’s made applying to US universities much easier than it used to be.

Unfortunately for hopeful applicants like you, it has also increased the number of applications US universities receive every year.

And, to put it simply: more applications = less time.

As a way to give university admissions officers more time to actually read application materials thoroughly, many elite universities now use “committee-based evaluation.”

In teams of two, university admissions officers divide your application (e.g. one person looks at test scores, grades, information about the region; and the other looks at recommendations, essays and extracurricular activities).

“They make a decision after eight to 10 minutes: admit, deny, waitlist. In about 85% of the cases, the application isn’t reviewed again.” (The Wall Street Journal)


How to Make the Most of Your 8-Minute Review

Since the initial round of review involves splitting up your application materials among different readers, every component must contribute to why you should be accepted.

If your personal statement is strong but your extracurricular activity (ECA) profile is weak, this is a problem - and vice versa.

Here are 8 tips to help you craft a memorable application:


1.  Fill in all 10 activities on the Common Application  

The Common Application will give you 10 spots to fill in extracurricular activities. In our experience, it’s always best to use up every spot to show a diverse range of interests and commitment in different activities.

2.  Write descriptive and concise activity descriptions

You’ll need to explain why an activity is an important contribution to your application in 150 characters, which isn’t a lot! Catch attention on the first read by highlighting achievements and giving specific details to your experience in the activity.

3.  Fill out all 5 spots of the awards section

In our experience, we’ve found that many students think the awards section is unimportant and choose to leave it blank. Don’t do this! This is an important section to show off your achievements. While it’s better to include unique awards and achievements (e.g. 1st Place in Writing Competition), common awards like Honor Roll also count and can help leave admissions officers with a good first impression of you.


4. Use a narrative writing style

With thousands of essays to read each day, admissions officers aren’t likely to remember the important details of your essays if you write them in the same way you’d write a CV or formal email. But they are likely to remember a good story, which is why it’s important you use a creative and narrative writing style.

5.  Have a ‘hook’ introduction

Since your entire application could be reviewed in 8 minutes, there’s no time for boring essay introductions. To get admissions officers’ attention right away, start with what we call an introduction that immediately catches the reader’s attention.

6.  Demonstrate that your interest is based on research in “Why School” essays   

It’s unfortunately easy to fall into the trap of repeating the same information as your peers when asked to write an essay for the most common supplemental essay prompt: “Why do you want to attend ________ university?”. This could lead to your essay being ignored by admissions officers who only have minutes to spare. Make sure these essays show that you’ve done your research by specifically mentioning things about the university that align with unique aspects of your application profile.


7.  Only use the additional information section if you have something important to say

As I’m sure you can imagine by now, no admissions officer has time during this quick review process to read another application essay hidden in the additional information section. Use this section if you need to explain something that could be seen as a red flag in your application. You may also use this section to give a bit more information about some of your notable accomplishments if you feel there wasn’t room to do so in another part of the application.

8.  Review your application periodically to check for grammar and spelling mistakes

Careless errors in grammar and spelling can quickly leave admissions officers with a bad impression of your application. Avoid this common mistake by periodically reviewing your application and having someone else do the same.


Need Help Making the Most of Your 8 Minutes?

If you’d like to work with our experienced US Admissions Consulting team, please email admin@arch-education to schedule an initial consultation meeting.  We specialize in helping students defy the odds and gain acceptances to top universities. And we look forward to helping you do the same!