…and then it was March!

Woosh! Was that the month of February I just saw go by my window? I hardly noticed! I must have spent the whole month hunched over my desk reading applications!

If you’re a returning reader, welcome back! If this is your first glance at the blog, thanks for your interest in Pitzer! We’re approaching the light at the end of a very long and rewarding tunnel. We’re only a week or so away from finishing all of your applications! At this time, everyone’s application has been read at least once by the Admission Counselor responsible for your territory and is now circulating to a “second reader.” We use this system to ensure that the first person who sees your application has the best chance of being familiar with your high school (and may have even met you while we were traveling). Second readers give each application a fresh perspective and help us get a more holistic picture of our applicant pool. It’s been an absolute honor and joy to see your essays, recommendation letters, interview notes, MyCollegeI videos, art supplements etc.

So what’s next? Next week our whole team will come back together for an intense week-long summit that most schools simply call “committee.” We basically lock ourselves in the conference room and discuss what we’ve read so that we can build a well-rounded class. Committee is fun, emotional, exhausting, and rewarding. It is also the most poignant reminder that we innevitably receive far more excellent applications than we have the possibility of offering admission to. More on committee in the weeks ahead.

I’ll leave you with this fun piece of news. Our very own Angel Perez, Director of Admission, has been asked by the Washington Post to write about the college search and admission processes. His first article is a great checklist for any high school student who is pondering the college question.

That’s it for now. See you soon!

Posted by Adam Rosenzweig, Admission Counselor


Angel is Awesome

Despite being sick, Angel wrote another amazing article this week and it was published in LA Times. This article discusses what it is like for us to fight for you in committee and after finishing my first year it is 100% accurate. I hope you enjoy.

College admissions’ wrenching ins and outs
For school officials, deciding on students’ dreams is a difficult, emotional task.
By Angel B. Pérez April 3, 2009

I’ve been talking to a lot of angry people this week. They yell; I listen patiently. They cry; I empathize. The pain of not getting into the college of your dreams is unlike any other. Students call here to Pitzer College to find out what they could have done differently. Parents call to ask us to reconsider. It’s hard to justify to someone who has just been “denied” the college of their dreams that although they’ve done everything right, we just did not have enough seats in the class.

What these families don’t see is the amount of emotion that admissions officers across the country pour into making these decisions. These students don’t know that behind closed doors, we argue about these difficult decisions. Each of us fights for the kids in admissions committee meetings, and we’re truly sad when we turn away applicants who we know have worked hard but, because of circumstances beyond our immediate control, we cannot admit.

It’s still hard for me to erase the images of the downcast expressions on my staff members’ faces when the decisions go against the students they had argued for in committee. Just days ago, we were deliberating between a few candidates for a special scholarship opportunity — knowing we had room for only one more. You could feel the tension in the room. Every admissions officer wanted his or her kid to get in. When the tough call was made, there was profound sadness. We knew we would positively affect the lives of some students while turning away the majority of those who had applied.

No matter how many years you work in college admissions, it never gets any easier to say no. At my institution, we received 4,079 applications but only have 245 spots in the freshman class. Choosing among a majority of overqualified students is our challenge.

I recall the fate of one young woman whose academic profile was top-notch. She had a 4.0 grade-point average at a competitive high school in Los Angeles, she listed a fair amount of extracurricular activities, and her essays read well. But she was from a town very close by and had never taken the time to visit the college. We offer many opportunities to do so, but she had had no contact with us.

In a year in which predicting how many students will enroll is going to be more difficult than ever, were we going to take a chance on her, that she was serious in wanting to come to Pitzer? With the pressure of having too many applications and not being sure of who really will enroll, we have to find ways to turn down students. In the end, we passed on her.

I also recall the young man from New York City who was academically below our margin. If I had read his application without meeting him, I probably would have denied him admission. But he showed up for my school visit when I was in New York, and had several contacts with me throughout the year. Then I interviewed him, and in my evaluation I wrote, “This kid bleeds Pitzer College.” He was concerned about issues of social justice and social responsibility — two key values that our institution was founded on. Clearly this kid had done his research and was determined to help me realize that he was the right fit.

His application eventually arrived on my desk, and I knew he was not going to be an easy admit. With a GPA below our typical average of 3.9 and no test scores submitted (we are a test-optional institution), the committee was not going to be kind. Therefore, I decided to read parts of his essay out loud to the committee. I needed to make sure they saw him outside the context of his numbers. They laughed out loud in response to this young man’s humor, and they could not believe how much time he took to demonstrate to us how right he was for Pitzer.

I followed up the reading by telling them about my impressions from the interview: “He won’t graduate top of his class, but he is going to be a powerful presence here.” One of our staff members, who was clearly impressed, said, “This kid really does want to change the world, doesn’t he?”

In the end, personal contact made a difference, and the young man’s ability to paint a clear picture as to why he was the perfect match for our institutional culture won us over.

This week, students across the country received admission decision letters from thousands of colleges. They have poured their hearts and souls into their applications. They have worked hard and taken risks to share some of the most intimate details of their lives. They have told us about their goals, aspirations, triumphs, failures and adversities.

As I sat in my apartment, at the local Starbucks, in my office, (admittedly sometimes at the strangest hours of the night), I read their applications. With a constant cup of coffee in hand, I pored over each of their life stories. I laughed, I cried, and sometimes I performed a cheer of triumph (earning me some strange looks at Starbucks).

Regardless of my reaction to individual applications, I am truly inspired by young people today. They are much more motivated and qualified for college than I was when I was applying. Each day, I read stories of young people who are working hard to change the world and create new experiences that require them to take risks, have courage and overcome obstacles. We can’t admit all the students we love, and that’s because we tend to love many more than there will ever be room for.

To all these students, I say that where you get into college is not a representation of your worth, and please remind your parents that your college acceptance letter is not their final grade on the parental report card of life. If a school did not admit you, it’s not a personal rejection.

In fact, most kids we turn away have done absolutely everything right, but given the seats we have available and the conflicting institutional needs that we have to balance, many kids are turned away because of the needs of the college, not because of a lack of achievement on their part.

We want an even representation of women and men, in-state, out-of-state and international students. We try to create a strong balance of socioeconomic and ethnic diversity as well. We need to make sure some kids can staff our athletic teams while others man our orchestras and theater productions. The list of needs is endless and seems to grow longer every year.

So for all of you getting the thick envelopes, the thin envelopes and everything in between this week, thank you for sharing the details of your lives and your aspirations. It’s what keeps admissions officers in this business — knowing that young people are doing amazing things and creating transformative experiences that will affect our world tomorrow.

Regardless of the decision letters you received, you have worked hard and have earned the right to brag about your accomplishments. You are indeed the hope we have been looking for.

Angel B. Pérez is the director of admission at Pitzer College in Claremont.


Posted by Danny Irving, Admission Counselor

Danny Leaps for joy

Stop biting those nails!

Your wait has come to an end. After 3 months of reading, filing and processing paperwork, we have made our decisions!!! At 2:14 PM PST March 26 we mailed our letters.

Regardless of the decision you will be receiving in the next few days, you should be proud of yourselves! Since we are so small we are only able to admit 822 applicants and since we had 4079 applicants these were very difficult decisions. This puts us at a 20% accept rate and believe me we wanted to admit more than 20% of you.

Before you get too wrapped up in the emotional roller coaster the maelstrom of admission letters causes, make sure to thank the people that made this possible. First thank your high school counselor. Whether or not you got into your first choice school, your counselors work pretty darn hard to get you accepted. They work late nights, over their December holiday vacation and send our more copies of your transcript than you could even imagine! So no matter what news you get put on a smile, go to your counselor, give them a big hug and thank them for all their hard work.

Next go to all those teachers that wrote those letters of recommendation. They are often the most neglected in this cycle. They want to share in your joy as well. So tell them where you were accepted and where you were denied and let them share in this emotional time. And don’t forget to give them a big thank you.

The one that many other people forget is your parents. I know most of you are rolling your eyes about that comment, but whether your parents were not involved in the process, were helicopter parents or gave you just the right amount of help, you must remember you wouldn’t be the person you are today if it wasn’t for them. So put the months of bickering aside and thank them for the help they gave you with your application. Don’t forget, the day when they will be dropping you off at your new dorm room is right around the corner, and they will be the ones heading back to an empty nest.

So to everyone who reads this blog, I send you my congratulations or my sympathy and hope you can mange to wait another few more days for that envelope (So please please PLEASE don’t call us yet.)

That aside, here are some pictures of our process.

group committee
All of us in committee.
angel committee2
Angel in committee.
And signing all those letters.
Jasmin and Constance stuffing envelopes.
The tray of letters (believe me, this is only a fraction).
Cecil envelope
Here is what the outside of the acceptance envelope looks like. Cecil is happy to get his.
This is what the inside looks like.
Here is Alex looking happy, as always, stuffing those envelopes.

We have a tradition here at Pitzer. Every year Arnaldo and Angel loads his car up with acceptance letters and takes it to the post office.

Arnaldo on his way to load up his car.
Ahhh all the letters lined up.
Angel loading up the car.
Arnaldo loading up the car.
And now your favorite counselor modeling with the acceptance letters.
Wow what a packed car.
And off they go!
Angel at the Claremont Post Office loading dock.
So long, farewell auf wiedersehen goodbye…acceptance letter.

By the way, we have started the Official Class of 2013 facebook page. So once you get your acceptance letters come check us out on facebook, ask any questions you might have, and get to know the other students who were accepted to the Pitzer class of 2013.


Posted by Danny Irving, Admission Counselor

Danny Leaps for joy

Reading Time

Hi everyone. I know it has been ages, but I had no idea what reading season actually entails and I have been busy. Allow me to fill you in. After we receive your wonderful applications and spend weeks on end putting them together, see previous pictures of piles of mail taller than I am, the Admission Counselors are finally ready to read. During reading season the admission counselors work from home, YAY!

At this point I must digress, and give a big thank you to our wonderful processing staff. While the counselors take off to read files, they are still here tackling those piles of credentials.

Now don’t get too jealous, just because I get to work from home doesn’t mean that life is easy. I have to read 135 files a week. That is a lot of reading. I must say, I have really enjoyed some of your essays. My name has even come up in a few of your supplements and it cheers me up every time.

To let you know, we do read everything in your application and we have a holistic approach to admission, so we have no formulas and every part of your application is considered. In fact, just to make sure you get your fair day in court, all the applications get read twice.

Then, every Thursday, our staff gets together and has a mini committee. This is where the two readers present your application and we make a final decision as a group.

As you can tell, I don’t have as much to write about these days. So to keep the blog lively, I am going to have some of our Admission Fellows write entries. For those of you who haven’t met the Admission Fellows, they are Seniors who conduct interviews, and information sessions and attend college fairs. Since this is their last semester of college, I figure I would allow them to tell you what is going on around campus and maybe share some of that knowledge they have gained over the last 4 years. You can check out their bios on our website/

Congratulations on reaching your final semester of high school. Enjoy it, but not too much, we do still look at those last semester grades 🙂

Posted by Danny Irving, Admission Counselor

Danny Leaps for joy