Every year, from January to March, each of the Admissions staff members needs to read as many applications as possible, while also doing a normal job’s worth of other tasks.  Peter’s known to squeeze files into the course of his day, but most of us rely on reading days (Thursday, for me), when applications are pretty much all we think about.  Last Thursday was my second reading day of “the season.”  Here’s a sense of how the day went.

8:00 a.m.

My husband is away in California and my daughter, Kayla, has gone to school early to attend a meeting of the Global Awareness Club, so I have a quiet house and a clear kitchen table, and I’m ready to begin.  I grab my bag of files.  This bag is not a fashion statement (I received it years ago at a conference) but it has the capacity to hold 50 applications and keep them nice and dry.  The bag weighs about 20 pounds when it’s full — manageable, and yet I tend to tilt toward the shoulder I’ve hung it on as I carry it around.

Like anyone doing repetitive work, I have my routines.  I start the day with the applications arranged in groups of five (about one hour’s reading) on the right.  The files I have read go on the left.  (I cheated a little yesterday and gave myself a head start of four files.)  I take out my office supplies, which I store in a Garfield pencil case.  (It’s an heirloom, passed from my son to my daughter to me.)  The case carries all the tools of my trade:  a blue pen, a red pen, a pad of sticky notes, and many heavy-duty rubber bands.  Ready to go.  My goal:  40 applications within 8 hours.  On second thought, better start off with a cup of mint tea.

10:00 a.m.

Need a change of venue.  Move upstairs for a while.  Look at email, but don’t answer anything.  Carry on reading.

11:00 a.m.

I’m keeping a pretty good pace.  In fact, I read six applications between 10:00 and 11:00, so I rewarded myself with a banana.

12:00 noon

The pile on the left is growing nicely!  I need a break, and I’m ready for lunch.  Heat up some of the vegetable stew I made the other day from the contents of my CSA share, and toast a slice of When Pigs Fly bread.  Highly restorative!  Back to work at 12:30.

2:00 p.m.

Doing good.  Keeping the pace.  Now I’m going to really push so that I can finish around the time Kayla comes back.  Need to block out distractions!!

3:30 p.m.

WOO HOO!  41 applications read!  The right-hand pile is gone, and the file bag is reloaded.

Now, you may be thinking, “How do I know you pay attention to the applications while you’re trying to meet your speed targets.”  You’re right, skeptical reader.  Some files go by in a flash, while others are more complicated and take longer to read.  Sometimes it’s a simple question of the amount of paper in the application, while other times I need to think a little harder about where an applicant falls in the admit/deny continuum.  But at the end of the day, after so many reading days, I can almost always count on completing 40 applications within eight hours. I just need to keep distractions to a minimum.

I’ll keep reading a few files here and there throughout the week, but the next big effort will be on Thursday.  I’m looking forward to it!

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