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Articles / Applying to College / Making Ivy League Admission Decisions

Feb. 23, 2017

Making Ivy League Admission Decisions

Those of you who have gone through or about to go through the so-called elite (a.k.a. ultra-competitive) college admissions process have no doubt wondered how your application was or will be evaluated. There are numerous sources available that offer insights into how this is done, but now there is an especially pertinent resource available to help you understand how things work.

Anatomy of a Decision, features key leaders discussing how they have made some of their toughest decisions over the course of their careers. The series' first edition, Decisions in the Admissions Office showcases an interview with Jeffrey Brenzel, former Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University, discussing the student selection process at Ivy League schools and what they're looking for in potential students. This is wonderful “inside" information that comes from someone who was on the front lines of the admissions game at its highest level.


Brenzel explains the elusive process by which admissions committees admit applicants and, by extension, how this approach can be applied to help make better business decisions. I would also view this wisdom to be applicable to making many of life's more complex decisions. Ours is no longer a simple world.

Brenzel notes the overall approach of elite admissions goal: “What [we're] trying to do is assemble the most interesting collection of people from the widest possible set of backgrounds and with the widest range of talents and aspirations."

Here's a sampling:

On the student selection process:

“We have our pick of an enormous range of talent and at capacity for future potential. What we try to do is put together a class that incorporates as much variety as we conceivable can…variety of every kind. To do that, we're trying to make sure that you can't come to Yale and find it a completely comfortable place."

“You're trying to meet an impossible set of criteria with a very limited number of places when you can command an applicant pool that's to die for. So very difficult for somebody who's not played a zero sum game before to have to make those tradeoffs and those choices."

On the application process:

“I'm often asked: 'what's the most important part of an application?' And my response is unsatisfactory: I don't know what the most important part of your son or daughter's application is going to be. I have to see the rest of the application to know which part is going to be most significant."

This is an interesting take on this traditionally mysterious process. If you're looking for some clues to help you solve your own admissions quest, this could be an important place to start.

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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