A Devil’s Dictionary of College Admissions

The Chronicle of Higher Education, Admissions & Student Aid

From the issue dated February 25, 2005
By Rachel Toor

ad. com. n. 1. an all-powerful committee deciding one’s fate in life 2. a body riddled with judgment flaws. Created by high-school students in Internet discussion groups

college fair n. a gala extravaganza of tables covered with a confusing array of lavish college brochures all promising similar experiences

development case n. an applicant to college whose family wealth may be in direct proportion to his academic unpreparedness. Archaic but still in use

hook n. something that turns an otherwise mediocre (or worse) applicant into an admissible candidate. See also: development case, legacy, and student-athlete

legacy n. a birthright of the American aristocracy

likely letter n. 1. an ambiguously written missive 2. a letter saying one is a strong applicant to a college, but shouldn’t assume any kind of commitment 3. something that leads to abject confusion

package n. 1. a messy sheaf of hopes, dreams, and half-truths put together by aspiring applicants 2. a messy sheaf of forms, folders, and information sent out by a financial-aid office

rankings n. a marketing strategy for maximizing magazine sales school visit n. a method of increasing the number of applications to colleges, carried out by admissions officials, usually consisting of one day, five stops at high schools, eight wrong turns. Archaic, based on the Fuller Brush approach

student-athlete n. an employee of the university

tour guide n. a cheerleader who has the ability to walk backward on a college campus

viewbook n. a fanciful work of fiction describing an imaginary institution of higher learning

wait list n. 1. a list of extremely well-qualified applicants who, if they lived in a different part of the country, went to a less competitive high school, had been born to more-savvy parents, had their application read earlier than 3 a.m., or had a last name that started with a different letter of the alphabet, would have been admitted to a college 2. a list of fine but ordinary applicants whom an admissions committee does not want to turn down outright because such an action is likely to send a wrong message to the high school that prepared the applicant (the right message: We want more like this, but better) 3. a list of applicants who are substantially below the quality of those admitted, but who cannot for political reasons be denied

yield n. a mathematical criterion, based on the percentage of 17-year-old applicants who accept an offer of college admission, used for reckoning how good an institution is; as important as faculty productivity, quality of teaching, and general academic standards. See also: rankings

Rachel Toor is the author of Admissions Confidential: An Insider’s Account of the Elite College Selection Process (St. Martin’s Press, 2001).

http://chronicle.com Section: Admissions & Student Aid Volume 51, Issue 25, Page B25