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Articles / Applying to College / Why Do Admission Officials Ask for Graded Papers?

Nov. 29, 2007

Why Do Admission Officials Ask for Graded Papers?

Question: Why do colleges require that, when you "submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year," it must have teacher comments and grade?

As annoying and frustrating as the admissions process can be, this is actually one of the parts of it that makes some sense. By submitting a paper with teacher comments and a grade, you give admission officials a tiny window into the standards at your high school. They can see how complex--or not--your assignments are and how high--or low--the teacher sets the bar when critiquing your work.


Here, it is really your school and your teacher that are being evaluated, not you. If your teacher misses obvious errors or applauds you for making simplistic points (or even makes spelling errors in the comments--God forbid!), then admission officials will have a greater understanding of the environment from which you are coming. This can put low test scores in perspective or garner greater respect for high ones. Conversely, if the teacher seems to be quite demanding, this will help admission officials better understand--and respect--the challenges you've faced.

Of course, admission folks do realize that standards will vary from class to class so that one teacher's remarks don't necessarily reflect the norms of the entire faculty. The graded paper you send is not likely to have any significant impact on your final admission verdicts, but it WILL enable your admission evaluators to learn at least a little bit about your school climate.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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