Looking at college apps from the flip side

Mrs. Herbert explains how admissions committees choose potential admits


Photo by Alex DiMarco

Have you ever wondered who’s on the other side of your college application? What is the admissions committee thinking when reading your application? As the January 1 deadline approaches, college counselor Mrs. Amy Herbert has the answers to all your questions and more. Before joining the Viator staff as the college counselor, she worked at three universities and knows a little about what it’s like to read completed applications.

Mrs. Herbert worked at the University of South Carolina, Auburn University and the University of Kansas. She was in charge of recruiting out-of-state students, planning large visiting days and running an admissions and advising bridge program.
According to Mrs. Herbert, when looking at applications, students were divided into three piles: the shoo-ins (students above what they’d take), the middle (right on the cusp) and the lower end.

“The most fun was the middle pile,” said Mrs. Herbert. “We would advocate for the students that we thought would be successful at our school. We would look at little pieces of information in the essays that show evidence that the student should be admitted. At the end of the day, everyone in that pile has the right scores, but it’s the other aspects of the essay that the admission officer uses to advocate for you to be the right candidate.”

Mrs. Herbert also finds it interesting to now be able to see the student side of applying for college after being on the admissions side for so long.

“Here I see how overwhelming it gets for students to receive so much college mail,” she said. “ I used to spend so long on marketing emails, but I didn’t realize how much of it goes unread. It’s made me rethink what college marketing should and could be.”

With experience on both sides of the college admission process, Mrs. Herbert has some advice for students applying. She encourages students to use their free sends for the ACT, as it is a great way to get on a college’s radar. She also urges students to visit campuses.

“It’s like the bachelor hometown date, and it allows you to see what your life would be like at that college,” said Mrs. Herbert.

Most of all, she advises students not to be too stressed.

“It’s called the office of admissions for a reason,” said Mrs. Herbert. “Colleges are looking for a reason to admit you, not deny you.”