THE SINK OR SWIM ROUND
SECOND IN A SERIES
By Marisa Cigarroa
than 80 alumni of different ages, some with their teenage children in
tow, filled the seats and spilled into the aisles of Thornton
Auditorium for a crash course on the Stanford admission process. This
has become one of the more popular programs during Reunion Homecoming
Weekend and the overflow crowd attests to the mystique surrounding the
college admission process. Even those who have made it in and out of
Stanford are unsure about what it takes to get accepted.
Holly Thompson, senior associate director of admission who is leading
the two-hour session, is a straight-shooter. She peppers her responses
to questions with concrete examples, not hypotheticals, and is quick to
acknowledge the limitations that are inherent in her job.
Im always keenly aware of the fact that I am not evaluating the
applicant, I am evaluating the application. Im limited to whats in the
file, Thompson says.
Thompsons aim this afternoon is to counter the myths about college
admission and to put a human face on Stanfords process. She
begins by plotting the mechanics of building a class.
Stanfords selection process can be visualized as a line with several
decision points. The first point is the sorting point, where files are
read by the most experienced members of the staff and sorted into
competitive or noncompetitive piles. About half the files drop out of
the competition at this point. A small fraction, about 5 percent, are
deemed clear admits and go to the dean for approval; the rest advance
to a second point, for a closer look from another reader.