For admissions, large colleges turn to external readers

Did you ever wonder how large colleges have time to go through all of the admissions applications they receive? The truth is that they don’t. Instead they hire people such as CVHS counselors Karena Doan and Duane Magno to be “external readers.”

“External readers” are people outside of the UC Berkeley staff who are enlisted to read and review applications. They do not, however, have the final say in who is admitted.

“If I say a person is awesome they are not necessarily getting in, and if I say they’re awful they’re not necessarily not getting in,” Magno commented.

Magno and Doan both applied to be “external readers” and had to go through a process called “norming” in order to prepare themselves to review applications the way UC Berkeley staff members would.

“First, they make sure everyone is looking at things the way they want them to,” Doan commented on the training.

When going over applications, “external readers” never count any component, such as a bad grades or a lack of extracurricular activities, as negative.

“They look at the students as neutral,” Doan commented. “Things can either be in their favor or they can be neutral.”

“External readers” like to see many activities and information concerning the students’ lives in their applications.

Doan offered advice about what could make an application stronger, stating, “explain as much as you can. Any circumstances affecting your grade would be helpful to know. And also, get involved as much as you can.”

The counselors view their work as admissions officers as a learning experience to help them aid their students in the future.

“One of the reasons why we wanted to take this position wasn’t for any money or to have an extra job. It was to gain experience and insight into the admissions process so we can better serve our students,” said Magno.

Most importantly, students should know that the process is completely fair, and that sucking up to the counselors will not help them win a spot at UC Berkeley.

“We don’t read our own students’ applications, and there is the safety in that system that more than one person makes the decision,” Magno said.

“But we do accept gifts anyway,” Doan joked in response.

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