A new member of the class of 2011 writes:

Williams literally looks at EVERYTHING

I think I’m proof that Williams and I’m sure many other schools are finally looking at the whole package. We all know there was a time when your standardized test scores meant everything, but now colleges are gradually realizing that, hey, maybe so-and-so had a bad night or they’re just not good at testing.

Your scores are hardly a measure of your intelligence. I got a horrible, horrible SAT score. And I’m not one of those modest people who say they did bad but really got 1380 or higher. I mean, I did poorly and I applied to Williams through Questbridge.

They looked at everything and looked past my scores and saw a real person. I’m so so so happy I’m going. It’s going to be amazing. I hope all of you get in and just know that Williams is going to try to see you for who you are, not just a set of scores.


1) Welcome to this newest member of the Williams family. Once you are an Eph, it does not matter how you got here. All that matters is what you do with the gift that is a Williams education.

2) “Looks at EVERYTHING”? Give me a break. If you have 1000 SATS, the College does not “look at everything.” It rejects you. If you are of average intelligence, then Williams does not care if you an olympic athlete, a Navy Cross winner or the most saintly 18 year-old in the country. You will be rejected.

3) I do not think that it is true that Williams, or most other elite colleges, are relying less on standardized test scores. The reasonable case for doing so would note that recent changes — like dropping analogies from the verbal SAT — make the tests less accurate in measuring IQ. Some colleges are dropping the SAT requirement, but this is mostly a scam to both increase applications and make (reported) SAT scores look better.

4) If anything, there is some evidence that Williams (and other elite colleges) are using SAT scores more than they used to. For example, the decrease in the number of high schools which report class rank forces colleges to use tests more and high school performance less. This especially impacts students from out-of-the-way high schools. If Williams has few if any other applicants/students from Nowhere High, then it will not know what an A- in Chemistry means. Standardized tests become the primary/only way of determining how you compare to students from other high schools.

5) Recall that the percentage of Williams students with below 1200 SATs is about 1/2 of what it used to be. (Note that I have been unable to find good data on combined SAT scores as opposed to the separate scores provided in the Institutional Research reports.) So, if anything, this would be evidence that Williams cares more about SAT scores than it used to. I believe that, for example, it is a matter of policy that the minimum SAT score to be a tipped athlete is 1250. Is that correct? How many Williams students score below 1200? I think very, very few. To the extent that it has any, they are almost all URM or relatives of major donors.

6) Williams might allow for a “bad night” but not being “good at testing” almost certainly doesn’t cut it.

7) Do not be so sure that:

They looked at everything and looked past my scores and saw a real person.

You really think that the small staff of the admissions office can see a “real person”? They didn’t even meet you! They don’t talk to anyone who knows you. There is some chance that, for this particular applicant, there was a personal connection made. There was a nice documentary a decade ago (Anyone got a tape?) which shot film inside the admissions office while they were talking about applicants. Some cases of real personal contact were highlighted. But, big picture, the admissions office treats the vast majority of applicants as, uh, applicants, as just another smart kid out of the pile of 5,000 which needs processing. They read your essay, study your transcript, consider your recommendations. Read The Gatekeepers for a nice overview of the process. But they do not get to know you as a real person. There are just too many applicants and too little time to make that possible. (And, it is not clear that devoting extra resources to the problem — by, say, doubling the size of the admissions office — would lead to better, or even different, decisions.)

Print  •  Email