David Graves      December 1st, 2014 in Blog

From January through mid-March, the admissions staff will hide out in
our offices and read files during our holistic file reading process.
And when I say read files, I mean lots of files (I am guessing I will
read over 1,200 files this year alone). As such, we want you to know what we
are looking at when we review these files. There are six main areas that
we look at in our file reading process, and I will cover two areas each
in a three part post. The first two areas focus on a student’s
activities, involvement and leadership and a review of the student’s
writing, self expression and creativity.


The first
thing you should know about activities is that we value quality over quantity. What we
are looking for is somewhat about the range of what a person does, but
more so the depth of their involvement. I see far too many applicants
get involved with multiple clubs or organizations in their junior year
after the light comes on (or the parent’s voice starts to be heard)
about being involved. Suddenly a student is involved in seven different
groups, from the Green Campus club to the knitting for kids group.
Anything and everything gets thrown into the resume.

we are
really looking at is what things you have committed to during your high
school years, both in time and in consistency. I am much more impressed
with a student who does three things, let’s say scouting, cross-country
and Habitat for Humanity, growing in ability, leadership and
responsibility each
year than a student who bounces from group to group, having ten areas
of involvement, but not staying with any one of them. We also want to
see that you had an impact in the club/sport/activity, whether it is as a
leader or an active member. In addition, another area we look at a
student’s dedication to family and work. At times, a student may have
limited involvement in clubs, but that might be due to a dedication to
their family and/or job. We have seen students that need to work to help
support their family, or at times are expected to help with taking care
of younger/older family members. It comes down to looking at a
student in context within his/her situation, and what is available or
expected within their situation.

We suggest that you
look at your time spent outside of the classroom and let us know what
you are passionate about and active in. Don’t think that just because it
is not a “school” club, that you should not list it. If you play the
violin, are active in missions with a community group, have the lead in a
community theater production, etc, tell us about it. The worst thing
you can do is leave a section blank just because you don’t think we
would want to know about “X”. We will then look at what activities you
have chosen to participate in over the last 4+ years, what leadership
roles you have taken on, and  what type of time commitment you have put
into these areas.

Writing/Self Expression/Creativity

In the review of an applicant’s writing, our focus is more the
writer’s voice, how well they communicate their ideas, and how well they
“show” us their information, and less focus is put on grammar and
structure. Yes, we still want a student to write clearly and spell check
their work, but that is not the key (and neither are “big” words or
writing about UGA in your essays!). When I talk about a writer’s voice,
and about “showing” instead of “telling”, I will direct you to my Suggestions for Writing Admissions Essays, as this tells you more than I could cover in one post.

I remember reading an applicant’s essay where the student really understood the idea
of showing, as her essays made me understand what she was going through
in the events mentioned in the essays, and I felt like I could almost
see the situations as they occurred. One essay focused on her
interaction in a politics class where she was the outsider in her
political views, and the challenges she faced from both her teacher and
the other students (and how she stood her ground while still being

The other area within this part looks at a
student’s creative side. While we see some of these items within the
activities section, we want to see how a student shows their artistic
side. We look at their involvement in the dramatic, visual and
performing arts, and try to get an understanding of their aesthetic side
of life. We will focus more on the writing part during this review, but
a student’s passion for the arts does come into play.

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