Oberlin Blogs

And the letters are... almost in the mail

March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Houston ’06

Application reading season is winding down, Jesse has finally stopped dreaming about applications, and all our applicants are eagerly awaiting those decision letters. So, what's taking us so long?

Well. Let me tell you a story about what has happened to your application. Possibly as long ago as last fall, you sent us your Common Application. Possibly as recently as a couple weeks ago, your teachers and guidance counselors and testing agencies have sent us the other materials required to complete your application. If these materials were submitted electronically, they were automatically imported into our new paperless application reading system. If they were submitted by mail, fax, or hand-delivered by albino squirrels, they were scanned into our electronic system.

Wait, paperless application reading system? Yes, that's right, this year we have switched from reading applications using paper files to reading them on the computer. This means that we're no longer printing out all of the materials you submitted online and putting them into paper files. This means we're no longer alphabetizing anything. This means I no longer have ominous stacks of files in my office constantly reminding me of all the work I have to do. This means we're saving trees!

It's been pretty exciting switching to the paperless system this year, but, as with any major software implementation, we have of course run into various bumps and delays along the way. Luckily, we got them all sorted out in the end, and we're really looking forward to next year, when I expect everything to go much smoother.

But let's get back to your application. Once each application part (transcript, teacher recommendation, etc) makes its way into our electronic system, it still needs to be processed. Each part must be reviewed by a data entry person, who enters various important information into our database, and marks each required application part as received. After all the parts arrived, your application was read by your first reader--the person primarily responsible for applications from your state. Your first reader is the one who signed that nice letter thanking you for applying, and they may have visited your school last fall. They do the most thorough review of your application, and they're able to evaluate your grades and curriculum in the context of your high school.

Once your first reader read your file and made assorted notes and a recommendation, that file was electronically passed along to another person for a second read. The second reader also reads through your file and makes notes and a recommendation, and they basically serve as a second opinion. This second opinion helps to ensure that our standards are applied uniformly, and it also helps make sure that no one is unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged by the mood their first reader happens to have been in while reading their application.

After the second read, we're still not done. Each application is discussed in committee, with the first reader presenting the highlights of each file. These presentations range from the routine to impassioned defenses of students who may not have the highest gpas and test scores, but that the readers still found to be particularly interesting and compelling. The committee, which is usually made up of 3-5 readers and the Dean of Admissions, will discuss each application and make a decision. Sometimes the committee will be unable to reach a decision, and we'll set those files aside to discuss again later.

Once every file has been read and discussed in committee, we're still not done. This time of year, we've read and decisioned just about every file, including those difficult cases that we postponed discussing until the end of the cycle. Now it's time to look at the class as a whole. Are we admitting the right number of students to meet our enrollment target? Is the class well-balanced (as measured by a number of demographic factors)? Did we stay within our (very large) financial aid budget? The answer to these questions is not always yes, and minor adjustments to the class are usually required. We generally find this process very difficult, as it involves going back and changing some of our initial decisions. We'll also go back and review transcripts that have arrived since we discussed each application, to make sure that none of the students that we're planning to admit have grades that have dropped dramatically in their senior year. This is the time of year when about half the staff is relaxing a bit because we no longer have lots of files to read, and about half the staff is frantic because they're responsible for double-checking everything and making lots of little changes to make sure that everything is just right before we mail out the letters. We even have people that double-check every letter before it goes out to make sure that we're not sending anyone the wrong letter. It's a pretty intense process, but it's what we do every year to make sure that we end up with a great group of students arriving on campus in the fall.

So, back to the big question: when are the letters going out? At this point, it looks like we will mail our decision letters on Monday. We do not make our decisions available online, but if you're living in another country, we'll send you an email in addition to your paper letter. I know you won't all be receiving happy news, but I wish you all the best, and everyone can at least look forward to receiving our decision letters soon.

Responses to this Entry

Looking forward for the decision. I really hope that it will be a good news.
Nevertheless, I wanted to thank the entire Admissions Committee for not only putting in a tremendous amount of effort in reviewing our applications, but also keeping us informed about the application process.

Just one question. As I'm an international student, and Oberlin's planning to send out the letters of Monday, will I get notified by e-mail on the same day?

Thank you.

Posted by: Ashima on March 24, 2011 1:53 PM

I'm so nervous and excited! Thanks for this post, I can't stop thinking about it and this helped!


Posted by: Emma on March 24, 2011 2:12 PM

Yay for almost being done! I'm excited for my last All Roads as a student ever!

And let the crazed season of frantic phone calls/emails/etc. commence!

Posted by: Patrick on March 24, 2011 2:45 PM

Awesome post, Elizabeth, but you failed to mention the hard, hard, hard work you did to make our paperless process possible!

Posted by: Leslie Braat on March 24, 2011 2:45 PM

Aww, thanks Leslie. I was going write a post back in January about our new paperless process, but I got a bit too wrapped up in fixing things and making sure it was all working properly!

@Ashima, emails to international students will happen no later than Monday, but they'll probably start going out this Friday. (Our coordinator of international admissions sends out personal emails to each admitted student, so it takes him a little time.)

Posted by: Elizabeth on March 24, 2011 2:54 PM

Oh, I am getting so excited for the class of 2015! I can't wait!

I am so so proud of all of the admissions folks and all the hard work they put in hourly, daily, and yearly. You guys rock.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on March 24, 2011 3:29 PM

I'm eager and completely nervous. Just a question, I'm hearing talk of a "paperless process" and I'm wondering what exactly you mean. Obviously the Common App is paperless, but my counselors insisted on using paper to mail things... and I'm curious.

Posted by: Ben on March 24, 2011 9:17 PM

Thanks for all you do in the Admissions Office! I'm excited to see my decision!

Posted by: Clifton on March 24, 2011 10:38 PM

Thanks Elizabeth, I was eagerly waiting for this for so long.

Thank you for caring so much about us!

Posted by: DC on March 25, 2011 8:06 AM

Ben, if things are mailed to us on paper, we scan an electronic copy of them and use that. It involves a few more steps on our end, but it works just fine. So the whole process isn't entirely paperless, but anything that arrives on paper is converted to an electronic format, so that we can read everything exclusively online.

Posted by: Elizabeth on March 25, 2011 8:37 AM

Hi! I live in Texas and am flying to Ohio on Wednesday March 30 to look at the colleges that have admitted me. Since letters don't go out until Monday, I'm afraid I will be in Ohio before I get my letter and won't know whether to include Oberlin in my visits. Any advice?

Posted by: Josh on March 25, 2011 11:02 AM

Josh, that's a tricky question. If I were already visiting other schools nearby and was unsure of my admission status with Oberlin, I would go ahead and include Oberlin in my visits. Of course, I'm sure you'd rather not spend the time visiting if you're not accepted. If you're really concerned about spending the extra time, you can try calling our office on Wednesday or Thursday. (or Friday, depending on how long you'll be in Ohio. The longer you wait to call, the more likely we will be to make an exception.) We don't generally release decisions over the phone, but in this specific situation you might be able to convince someone to make an exception. Or, you could have someone back at home checking your mail and calling you when the letter arrives. That would probably be easier than trying to convince us to do something we don't usually do.

Posted by: Elizabeth on March 25, 2011 11:37 AM

Will the Oberlin Conservatory admissions letters be mailed at the same time as the Oberlin College admission letters?

Posted by: Alison on March 25, 2011 6:33 PM

So so so so excited! Please be good!

Posted by: Denni on March 26, 2011 7:34 AM

Thank you so much for this article. This is such a great example of how much Oberlin cares about its students, even ones who have not been accepted yet. Although the results may not always been in a prospective student's favor, we really appreciate the personalized admissions process Oberlin is determined to offer. All we can do now is hope for the best!

Posted by: Tory on March 26, 2011 12:26 PM

Well...sounds like it is time to pull an all-nighter. Say hi to the coffee guy. And good luck.

Posted by: Larry on March 27, 2011 1:12 AM

Rumor has it that acceptances are going out via e-mail today. Is this true? And if so, does that mean you did not get accepted if there was no e-mail today?

Nervously waiting!

Posted by: Kara on March 27, 2011 8:18 PM

Is it today??? Same for the Intl?

Posted by: Denni on March 28, 2011 8:36 AM

@Alison--Conservatory letters are mailed separately, but usually within a day or two of the Arts & Sciences mail date.

@Kara--I expect emails to go out to all international applicants today (both accepts and rejects). Applicants from the US will not receive emails.

Posted by: Elizabeth on March 28, 2011 8:40 AM

Will the emails to internationals contain fin. aid information?

Posted by: Taha on March 28, 2011 1:45 PM

Yes, the emails to international students will contain all the financial aid information.

Posted by: Elizabeth on March 28, 2011 2:00 PM

Elizabeth, I have been waitlisted. I remember reading somewhere that you guys are under-enrolling this year's class so you can admit more people from the waitlist. Can you offer any numbers as to what was the number of admits last year and how many have been admitted this year?

Posted by: Taha on March 29, 2011 12:54 PM

Is is true that if I was able to log into PRESTO!, I was admitted to the College of Arts and Sciences?

Posted by: Ben on March 29, 2011 4:41 PM

Ben, that's not true. Your ability to log in to PRESTO is unrelated to your admissions decision.

Posted by: Elizabeth on March 31, 2011 8:40 AM

Got rejection letter from Conservatory on Monday(3/28)
O:( does this mean I'm not accepted into the college either?? Nothing else received yet & it's the 31st.

Posted by: Kd on March 31, 2011 4:29 PM

Elizabeth, I read the Oberlin blogs sometimes just for fun and reading this post of yours reminded me of how excited/anxious I was waiting for my admissions decision letter 11 years ago! Your job sounds like a lot of fun (most of the time, at least). Will you be around Oberlin for reunion this year? Nat and I are planning on coming and bringing Ezra (OC Class of '33). It would be great to see you!

Posted by: Liz Wagner Pittman on March 31, 2011 6:10 PM

@Kd - College and Conservatory decisions are made separately. The College mailed our decision letters on Monday, so you should be receiving your notification very soon.

Liz! I will definitely be around for the reunion, and I'd love to see you and Nat and meet your baby. I'm planning on having some kind of gathering at my house as well - I have a great backyard for a bonfire.

Posted by: Elizabeth on April 1, 2011 8:35 AM

No news is...bad news?? Still no letter from the college,just rejection from the conservatory - it's April 5. Should I not expect anything?

Posted by: Kd on April 5, 2011 12:40 PM

At this point, you should have received your decision letter. If you haven't, call the Admissions Office and we can either send you another copy or find out why you haven't received a decision.

Posted by: Elizabeth on April 5, 2011 1:36 PM

Elizabeth, any chance you could let us know when the ED letters are going out? The waiting would be much easier if I knew when the letters would be on their way.

Posted by: Anxious on December 13, 2011 8:52 PM

ED letters are going out today!

Posted by: Elizabeth on December 14, 2011 10:51 AM

Thanks, Elizabeth!!

Posted by: Anonymous on December 14, 2011 9:47 PM

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