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Q&A With A Former Ivy League Admissions Officer

Stephen Friedfeld, Ph.D.
08/02/2017

Q&A with a former Ivy League Admissions Officer

Wardell was a Senior Admissions Officer at Harvard University and Assistant Dean at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs.

1. What can you share about the Harvard & Princeton application process that most people will not know?

I feel the one thing that most people do not know is the level of care and scrutiny each application is given. In spite of the huge number of applications the admissions office receives, no application is given short shrift. The admissions office gives every application a thorough reading and those that move on to final consideration are read several times and discussed by a number of admissions officers. The strength of the process, in addition to its thoroughness, is that there is no set formula for acceptance.

2. What is the first thing you read in an application?

I don't have a set pattern for reading applications. If the candidate is from a high school that I know fairly well, I'll probably just start at the beginning of the application and read through it, ending with the essays. If I don't know the school well, I'll look at the counselor's report and the transcript before reading other parts of the application.

3. What are the key qualities that you wish to see in an essay?

First, I like to see originality. After reading hundreds and hundreds of essays, originality is important because it will help an application to stand out from the others. Second, I like to see information about the applicant that is not found anywhere else in the application. The perspective that the applicant chooses to use to share that information is important and goes back to the originality I mentioned above.

4. Can you give an example of a mistake that caused the application to be rejected?

Dishonesty in any form will lead to certain rejection.

(Stephen has 10+ years of admissions experience at Cornell University and Princeton University. He is a founder of AcceptU, an admissions counseling group comprised entirely of former admissions officers from highly selective colleges and universities. For questions or to learn more about AcceptU, contact Stephen (stephen@acceptu.com, 617-424-0700) or visit www.acceptu.com. )

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