The Truth Behind My College Admissions

The Truth Behind My College Admissions

August 25, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


– My name’s Molly Hensley-Clancy. I graduated from Yale in 2013, and in 2015 I saw my admissions files. What goes on inside admissions
offices is really mystery. So, I went to the basement of the admissions office
at Yale University, and I got a manilla file folder that had all of my admissions documents. I was able to do that because of a law called the Family Education
Rights Privacy Act, which allows you to see everything that your college keeps on you, including everything that the admissions officer has wrote
about you, for a brief time. Then, Yale and some other schools caught on that people were using this law, and they started destroying
admissions files. So they basically turned my
entire college application into a few bullet points, some numbers, and a couple sentence long paragraph. One of the admissions
officers didn’t like my essays quite as much. She said they were “bordering on cheesy,” which, I actually got to see my essays; they were really, really cheesy. Another thing that the
admissions officers do is they try and turn you
into a series of numbers. So, they rank your grades,
they rank your essays, and they also rank what your
teachers said about you. It’s pretty subjective. So, there was one admissions officer that clearly liked me a little
bit better than the other. And, she thought my admissions
interview was a nine, and the other one thought it was a six, which was sort of a pretty tepid score. You can really tell in the files that they’re looking for
a specific type of person. They try and predict what
you’re gonna be on campus; what role you’re gonna play. And so, my admissions
officers did exactly that; right in my files it said, she will be a high
impact writer on campus. And, when I got to campus
writing is exactly what I did. So, one of the things that admissions officers really to do is put together a diverse class, and that means from different
races, and different incomes. So, I went a big inner-city,
public high school that had a lot of students
that were African American, that were immigrants and
that were low income, and the admissions officers, in my files, explicitly said that one of the reasons they wanted to let me in was because of where I went to high school, and because of where I came from. One of them said, “she’d
be a good admit for us from the Minneapolis public schools.” And the other one was even more explicit; “I’m in her corner and
it would good to take one from the Minneapolis public schools.” So, they chose me to represent a 35,000 student school district where 65% of the students are minorities, and most of the students are low income. I don’t really fit into
any of those boxes. I’m white, both of my parents went
to an Ivy League school, I’m not low income. As far as I know I was
one of only two students to get into Yale from the entire Minneapolis Public School system. And the other one to get
in was also the white, middle class daughter
of two college grads. Two years later, the next
person to get into Yale from my high school was also white and both of his parents
had Masters degrees. It’s really hard if you’re a poor kid to put together the kind of application that these schools are looking for. If you come from a low income high school, your school might only offer
a couple of AP classes, and you probably can’t
afford an SAT tutor, and you might be working
a job at a supermarket instead of doing a bunch of clubs and applying for awards. And so there’s a lot of
really, really smart poor kids who worked really hard in high school and are definitely able to do
really well at these schools, and they don’t get in. So, what did I learn from
looking at my admissions files? Not a lot. It seemed clear to me that I got into Yale partly because I was smart, partly because I was really lucky, partly because I did a good job
playing that admissions game and selling myself. But, I also learned that I partly got in because of where I came from. And, that was kind of bullshit. And actually, in January
a bunch of schools like Yale and Harvard
got together and said, you know, we’re gonna try and reform the admissions process. We’re trying to make it so it doesn’t discriminate against poor kids, so it really gives them a fair shot.