One of the things I like best about the admissions season is the annual opportunity to work closely with the students on our Admissions Committee. Six or seven student members join us each year, and we try to pull together a group that represents what Fletcher is about. Being on the Committee is a ton of work, and the students are super diligent. We want them each to read about 300 files. (Don’t tell anyone I said this, but 300 turns out to be a challenging target. They usually end up reading about 250.) They’re compensated for their reading, but not for the weekly four-hour meeting when we discuss applications. We provide a very basic hour of training and a simple handbook, and then we throw them in the application pool to see if they can swim. They often tell us it takes nearly an hour to read the first application. By the end of the process, they’re more efficient, but three to four per hour is often the maximum.
As staff members, we have perspective on the year-by-year applicant pool. The professors know the type of student who tends to do well in their classes. But the student Committee members bring something really special. They’re the ones who can tell us who, day-by-day, is going to bring a special quality that they know will be valued by the student community.
It’s an annual special moment the first time that the professors explicitly turn to the students for their perspective. We’re peers around the table, but the meetings are a disruption of the usual academic pecking order. On some topics, the students are the experts, and the professors and staff are there to learn from them.
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