[by c4v@vinhhth]

If I do write the book of all the dirt I have, it would make lots of money and grab some headlines, but for the moment I have no intention of going down this route.

Instead, I will submit this pretty simple confession. The responsibility of deciding who gets in and who does not sounds great to some, but it is also hard to work at a highly selective university. Almost all the students who apply are at the very least quite good, and most are close to great or even better. The pool of students who would contribute to a school is far larger than the spaces that are allotted. This means I make way more people unhappy than happy.

Given what I have just written, I have to confess that I have made mistakes about students. There are some students I have not admitted who, after looking over the application, after the fact, I have said to myself: “What was I thinking?”  Any admission officer can manufacture a reason not to take someone. And the reverse is true too in terms of accepting people.  There have been times when in reviewing decisions I think I was  far too snarky about an essay, or sniffed too judgmentally about an academic program or an SAT score. But here’s the thing. I have been in touch with some of these students and the fact is getting into a specific school as a senior seems like the biggest deal in the world to some but it really isn’t. 

One student this year contacted me about transferring from the school she got into to her former top choice. At her current school she is the number one student in the whole university. But she felt she needed to trade up. I actually talked to her for quite a while about how being the best at a strong school is far better than being in the potential academic middle of a top 5. And in the end she chose to stay at her school as they offered her research, and many other perks. So maybe some of those students whose applications I read either with too critical an eye or too much focus on numbers actually ended up doing better at another school anyway. If nothing else,  this kind of reasoning helps me sleep at night.

It is sort of an unwritten law for admission people never, ever to admit mistakes about decisions, but I think that anyone who has made lots of decisions and can’t admit they made a few wrong calls should be looked at with suspicion.

Parke Muth

Former Associate Dean and Director of International Admission at University of Virginia

Source: http://www.quora.com/College-and-University-Admissions/What-are-some-confessions-of-a-college-admissions-officer/answer/Parke-Muth