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Part-time readers grow with apps

Admissions offices are gearing up for another year and planning for the annual influx of applications. Highly competitive colleges and universities, which are receiving applications from tens of thousands more students than they could ever accept, have seen an increase in the number of applications over the past two years and expect that this trend continues. This means they will have to hire more people to read more apps.

At many colleges, that means hiring more part-time readers. Most competitive college admissions offices have been doing this for decades, long before the pandemic. But the numbers are growing.

At the Georgia Institute of Technology, about 60 part-timers will be hired this year. Richard A. Clark, director of undergraduate admissions, said 15 readers were hired five years ago, up from three to five readers a decade ago.

At the University of California at Irvine, 180 people were hired as part-time readers last year. They shared the work of reading 142,000 applications (actually double since admissions officers say every application will be read at least twice) with a team of 50 full-time admissions staff.

Dale Leaman, Irvine’s executive director of undergraduate admissions, said the reality is that there is no way Irvine, or most other colleges with burgeoning applications, could afford to hire enough full-time readers to process all of their applications. He expects to hire 200 part-time readers next year.

Why not push for more full-time hires? “Nobody will want to hear about it,” he said.

At Irvine and other colleges that use part-time readers, certain types of people are sought after for jobs. They include retired admissions officers and those working as high school teachers and college counselors. They are usually hired in the fall and work until the end of the admissions season in April. Some work almost full time and others much less.

Colleges have different procedures for training application readers. At Irvine, new part-time readers first review 20 files from the previous year with full-time senior staff explaining why students were admitted or rejected. Next, the new hires review 10 other applications and explain why they would accept or reject them, with senior managers reviewing their decisions.

To address conflicts of interest, part-time employees are prohibited from considering students applying to school districts where readers work. And all applications are reviewed blindly, without names.

The part-time reader isn’t so much admitting a student as it is recommending whether a student should be admitted, Leaman said. Each application is reviewed by two people, and if both disagree, a third staff member is hired. Irvine has also carefully consider whether one reader (full-time or part-time) has a significantly different reaction from the other reader.

“I think our process is working exceptionally well,” Leaman said.

Molly A. Jacob, executive director of enrollment management services at the University of Rochester, said the university has always used part-time readers.

She said she has hired eight to 12 a year and plans to hire more than 12 this year, to meet the expected increase in applications.

Although readers may be distant, she said “we need in-person training,” including a discussion of “how Rochester reads.” It’s important that they review applications in the same way as full-time employees, she said.

They only do the “first readings” of applications, which are then all read by a member of staff.

At Dickinson College, Molly Boegel. assistant vice president for enrollment, said the college had tried to avoid using part-time readers, but had hired two in the last two years of the pandemic. She said the preference was to have each application read by a full-time staff member, but that was simply not possible during the pandemic. She does not know if the college will hire part-time employees this year or when the pandemic ends.

Critique of practice

While most admissions officers seem to be fine with hiring part-time staff, there are criticisms of practice.

“No college provides the information during their process. ‘Well, when our office gets your application, we can outsource it to someone else off campus,'” an associate director of admissions at a private college said. selective which receives many candidates. “I certainly feel that colleges are more interested in the collection and outcome of reading applications, but not in the process itself.”

The official, who requested anonymity, said his college has traditionally hired five or six part-time readers. The college hired nearly 20 readers last year and expects that number to increase this year.

In theory, part-time employees are simply recommending a result to a full-time employee. But he added that with some recommendations arriving just before the deadline, they don’t get the attention they deserve.

He said about 10-15% of applications have been read by part-timers in recent years. In the class that was admitted this year, he said the percentage was more like 25-30%.

“Do people have the right to know? He asked. “Does anyone care?

Angel B. Pérez, CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said he wasn’t worried about the situation.

“I’ve heard that the influx of applications has led to more part-time workers being hired,” he said.

But he said it is possible to do so responsibly and avoid conflicts of interest.

Said Pérez: “I trust my colleagues.”

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