It’s Not The Scores, It’s The Grades

The results of a first of its kind comprehensive study of the academic performance in college of students admitted under test optional admission policies was released today by William Hiss, former dean of admissions at Bates College. In the report, entitled “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” Mr. Hiss notes that what was sought was the answer to the fundamental question related to test optional policies: “Are college admissions decisions reliable for students who are admitted without SAT or ACT scores?”

Unequivocally, the answer is yes. No statistical difference was found in the grade point averages or graduation rates between students who submitted standardized test scores and those who did not. Also interesting, the study found that students with lower scores but strong high school grades performed better in college than students with higher scores but lower grades.  The study tracked the performance of over 120,000 students at 33 colleges and universities over an eight year period.

NPR aired a terrific piece on the study this morning – you can listen to it in its entirety on their webpage. The story notes that, to date, all colleges and universities had was “school specific” or “anecdotal” evidence that students admitted under test optional policies were performing just as well as their submitting peers. Here at Wake Forest, we graduated a higher percentage of students in 2013 – the first graduating class admitted under our test optional policy – with honors (cum laude/magna cum laude/summa cum laude) than we had in over a dozen years. We know so many of our students, submitters and non-submitters alike, are performing exceptionally well.

The study is an affirmation of what our Admissions Committee believes wholeheartedly – an exemplary high school record is a wonderful predictor of success in college. The applications on my desk are full of essays and responses to our seven “In Brief” prompts, interview evaluations, transcripts, and recommendations which describe and summarize your high school experiences. While reading the study, I found myself reflecting on how much work we put into the review of each application to ensure that the students we admit will be successful once here. Assembling our class takes a great deal of effort. Mr. Hiss’s study confirms what we surmised back in 2008 – it is worth it.

Severe Weather, Potential Campus Closing

20090302snow5520As you may be aware, weather forecasts for Winston-Salem and surrounding areas indicate the possibility of heavy snowfall beginning Wednesday, February 12.  Please monitor the university website at for weather related closings.  If the Wake Forest University Reynolda campus is closed due to weather, the Admissions Office will also be closed.  If the Admissions Office is closed, all information sessions and tours are canceled.

If you would like to cancel or reschedule your reservation, please refer to the confirmation email for instructions or call the Admissions Office at 336.758.5201.

TEDxWakeForestU 2014

TEDxWakeForestUI have learned from conversations with prospective students that viewing TED and TEDx talks both live and online is common practice for many of you, so this may be right up your alley. The third annual TEDxWakeForestU will be held in Wait Chapel on Saturday, February 22. This year’s theme is “Daring to Endeavor.” For information on how you can attend or view videos of the event online as well as a list of speakers, visit the TEDxWakeForestU official website.

Welcoming The Class of 2015

Twice this week I’ve put down my pen and the application in front of me and walked downstairs to our auditorium to give an information session, a fifty minute talk about Wake Forest and our application process. During each of these sessions I was greeted almost exclusively by juniors.

Gone were the seniors, applications perhaps already submitted or almost so. Visiting less frequently are those who occasionally contort their faces after I describe the courses we hope to see on a transcript or the fact that, for the most part, competitive applicants will present senior schedules with at least five core academic courses. I feel for these students, I truly do. Their “academic die,” outside of their first semester grades (very important, mind you), is cast by the time they visit us in the late fall and early winter.

Not so for the juniors who will soon visit us in droves. Our information session crowds will pick up quickly around the President’s Day holiday and then swell throughout the Spring Break weeks of March and April. Almost exclusively juniors in high school, you come to us as unfinished works. Many of you will have not yet developed your senior year schedules. Thus, I hope you will take note of the fact that we and many other highly competitive colleges and universities want to see students taking full advantage of the rigorous courses available to you. IB, AP, “400 Level” or “Advanced” – however it is that your school denotes its most rigorous course offerings – we hope to see them on your transcript. These are the courses you will want to sign up for when you meet your high school counselors later this spring.

I implore you to resist that urge to no longer take a foreign language and sign up for a fourth or fifth year of study. Feel you are a weak mathematics student yet are at the level where AP Calculus or AP Statistics is available to you? Stretch yourself. Take an upper level science course. Pop culture, your parents, the media – so many preach that your junior year is the most difficult and important year of high school. I do not doubt that some of you receive pressure to pull back a little. I am here to tell you that they are all wrong. Your senior year is the most important year of high school. Colleges and universities want to see where the previous three years of preparation has led you. Show us that you are prepared for the extraordinary rigor of college study by taking on a challenging senior year curriculum.

As I understand it, many who are slated to visit over the next few days may not make it here at all – there’s a whale of a storm bearing down on much of the northern tier of states with more ice and snow to come. Some of you may already be snowed in with school canceled for the day and perhaps even the week. Sounds like a good time to bundle up with your favorite hot drink and a good book to me. If you are curious about the weather our way, take a look at our Hearn Plaza Webcam and see for yourself what you may be in for when you come down. Information on setting up a campus visit can be found on our Upcoming Admissions Events webpage. We look forward to welcoming you soon.

Reading Season

Dean Harris readingThe time for reviewing your application to Wake Forest is upon us and this is arguably our busiest season of year. Days and nights are spent reading and commenting on applications. We read in our offices and our homes, at our desks or with our feet up (Dean Jennie Harris here likes her spot by the window), morning, noon and night, on weekends and . . . we essentially read everywhere, all of the time. Each member of the Admissions Committee will have applications to read and meetings to attend to talk about the applications we read now through March.

I have reviewed a few dozen applications, many of which have been outstanding. I’ve already found myself photocopying particularly strong responses for review later when we ponder questions for next year’s application. Colleagues sigh or laugh to themselves down the hall after reading moving or amusing responses. I read a file from a young man today who referenced “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls – my cackle reverberated down the hall (it was really well done). Thoughts of essays, transcripts, recommendations, lists of extracurricular activities and honors and the like will spin through our brains until the task is done and decision letters are mailed out in late March.

We are still receiving requests from students asking for the opportunity to interview with us. The time has necessarily come for us to devote all of our energy to reviewing applications. Frankly, if we did not we wouldn’t get them all reviewed. Interviews have concluded for this year’s applicant pool.

Finally, thank you for continuing to wait patiently while we process your application documents. We are on track to have every document submitted to us either electronically or via mail processed and in your file by February 1.

Application Processing – Where We Are On January 7

First, thank you to everyone who has applied! The first week of January has come to an end and, generally speaking, we feel good about where things are from a processing standpoint (I need to find a big piece of wood to knock on right now).

Those who applied via the Common Application remember well how it works. First, you completed your application and supplement. Then, you “assigned recommenders” – school counselors and teachers – to complete supporting documentation on your behalf. If you used the Wake Forest application, you too may have teachers and counselors who are using an online delivery system to send documentation to us separate from your actual application.

On our end, these documents are accessible in two distinct places. First, we download your application and supplement as this officially starts your “file.” While technically two pieces, we try to download them both together. There are times when applicants submit the supplement days or even weeks after having submitted the application – we download such supplements periodically (the Common Application does not allow students to submit a supplement without having submitted an application). We have spent the better part of the last couple of weeks downloading and printing – again, we read applications on paper, not online – your applications and supplements. As noted in the previous post, because of technical issues with the Common Application website on January 1 we will continue to accept applications through Friday, January 10.

Soon we will begin downloading and printing the documents submitted by your “recommenders” – your school reports, transcripts and recommendations. Over the course of the next few weeks, these documents will be populated on your Window to Wake Forest account. Our goal is to have every document, whether submitted electronically or via good old-fashioned mail, entered into our database and added to your physical application file by February 1. As noted in earlier posts, should February 1 come and go and your account not accurately reflect what you or your school submitted on your behalf, please contact our office. We will either assure you that the documents you are inquiring about have successfully arrived or will suggest a secondary method of submitting what is missing.

Application ProcessingAs I am sure you can imagine, application processing – from putting your materials together to review – is a monumental task. Members of the Admissions Committee pitch in between application reads and other responsibilities to file and assist with data processing. Our support staff is a phenomenal group, often working late or on the weekends in an effort to put your applications together. Thanks to the work of folks like Sue here (who made a mean cornbread for our Polar Vortex Day celebration today!), we will put your applications together for review, one submitted document at a time!

Applications Submitted By January 10 Will Be Reviewed

Due to technical problems experienced by Common App users on January 1, we will continue to process Fall 2014 applications submitted through January 10.  Please visit for other submission options should these issues remain unresolved. We continue to offer an online version of our Wake Forest University application which you are welcome to use!

If you have already submitted your application, thank you! We look forward to reading it soon. You may follow the status of your application file through your Window to Wake Forest account at  After February 1, should your account not accurately reflect what you or your school submitted on your behalf, please contact our office. We will either assure you that the documents you are inquiring about have successfully arrived or will suggest a secondary method of submitting what is missing.

We know this is an anxious time for students applying to college and that the technical issues you are facing have made this year particularly trying. Our Admissions Committee is comprised of parents of college students as well as recent college grads who remember well the application process. Curmudgeonly ruthless we are not, understanding are we (channel your inner Yoda for that one). I assure you that none of these issues will have any bearing whatsoever on how your application is reviewed.

A Year At Wake Forest


I encourage you to take a look at this terrific photo essay put together by our Office of Communications and External Relations which illustrates why 2013 was a terrific year at Wake Forest. We wish all of you a tremendously happy 2014!

Your Application Status

20130923chapel9528Wait Chapel and its four clock faces. Apropos here as the proverbial clock is indeed ticking with New Year’s Day but three days away. We know that many of you are finalizing your applications and appreciate your efforts. I apologize for repeating information from an earlier post but this information will remain highly relevant to all applicants throughout the first 4-6 weeks of 2014.

Again, our Regular Decision deadline is January 1. You are allowed to work on it all day Wednesday before clicking submit. Once submitted, we ask that you not contact our office to see if your application has been received. It will take a handful of weeks for applications, regardless of how they were submitted, to be processed and entered into our system. The same holds true of supporting documents (school reports, teacher recommendations and the like). We encourage you to track your own application status on your Window to Wake Forest account page.

After February 1, if you feel that your Window to Wake Forest account does not accurately reflect what you or your school submitted on your behalf, feel free to contact our office. We will either assure you that the documents you are inquiring about have successfully arrived or will suggest a secondary method of submitting what is missing.

A note about interviews – your application status will remain “incomplete” if you did not have an interview until mid to late January. It is then that we will remove “interview” from the application checklist for those who did not interview with us.

Finally, we can no longer accept interview requests – whether you desire to interview on campus or via Skype, our schedule is completely full for the remainder of our interview season.

We will continue to provide updates throughout the review season. In the meantime, we wish you all the best as you finish up your applications. Happy New Year!

Apply To Wake Forest Today!

Just a note – if you click “submit” on your Common Application or Wake Forest University application, you may still receive an email inviting you to apply through January 1. This does not mean that your application was not received, only that it has yet to be fully processed into our system. Thank you and Happy New Year!