Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Accepted! – what it takes to get into Whitman College

As Whitman College approaches the end of the year, the future class of 2013 has just begun their college journey with the arrival of their acceptance letters. This prompts some Whitman students to ask themselves: what does it take to get into Whitman? What qualities do admissions officers look for that are not included in brochures sent to prospective students?

One specific quality that admissions officers look for, according to Assistant Director of Admission Victoria Lidzbarski, is a “fit” student.

“This is a cloudy idea. There’s not really a specific definition,” said Lidzbarski. “Test scores and involvement are looked at, of course. This extra element often includes a cultural fit. Are they passionate and active community members? Are these students going to try and make a difference or are we not going to even notice they are here?”

“Fit” does not have a specific definition. Students who are considered “fit” have made a difference in their high school, whether that means starting a club or making a current program better.  

However, according to Director of Admission Kevin Dyerly, “the vast majority of our applicants are academic and meet those bars. The question remains if the students can remain active in the community as well –– if they can both work hard and play hard.”

“One thing I look for is if students are participants and givers rather than takers,” said Bruce J. Jones, Assistant Director of Admission: New England Regional Office.

Officers take a close look at unique voices as well as the ability to convey passion for a particular subject in order to determine if a student can add “cultural spice and diversity” to the Whitman community.

Beyond the ‘Whitman-ly’ qualities of passion, involvement and the notion of “diversity,” officers also watch out for “red flags”: particular personality traits that are huge turn-offs for admissions officers. Aside from students who do not fit the academic mold, officers typically look out for students who have a history of plagiarism or legal issues.

One particular area officers pay attention to when looking for “red flags” is the essay section.

“On rare occasions, students will write essays that come across as extremely negative or aggressive writing,” said Lidzbarski. “We try to watch out for people who seem really non-community. They may be academically qualified and be involved, but students who come across that way I don’t think would really fit in to Whitman.”

While high school seniors tend to slack off their last year, officers pay close attention to how much students slip not just grade-wise but how what courses they give up during their final year.

“Students need to match the rigor of Whitman in high school,” said admission officer Joshua Smith. “It’s not easy to get into Whitman if students go from taking five AP classes their junior year to no AP classes their senior year.”

Furthermore, students who go overboard with their application and add “creative gimmicks”, as some of the officers called them, the application is likely to be glossed over.

“I had one prospective student turn in a three-ring binder that was a 130 page application which included every award or certificate the student had received since kindergarten,” said Jones.  

“One prospective student turned in an essay written in a circle so you had to turn it to read it,” said Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Tony Cabasco. “It was creative, but after three turns I put it down.”

Since admissions officers go through over 60 to 100 applications each week, spending up to 30 minutes on each of them, officers lose interest in looking at “cutesy” or “gimmicky” essays.

“If a student’s essay seems really shallow we don’t really look closely,” said Smith. “We don’t disregard actual talent, though, and we do look over applications holistically.”

With the application process becoming more and more competitive, Whitman College has raised the bar for academics, student involvement, creativity and personality. Even with the lowest acceptable GPA for a prospective Whitman student at 3.89, “about 85 to 90 percent of applicants are academically qualified” according to Cabasco.

The question remains, when every aspect of the application is weighed in, what happens to those rejected?

“Some of our favorite prospective students don’t get in because there is just not room,” said Cabasco. “It’s too bad because we do try to accept as many as we can. They go on to do well in other schools because they are talented kids. It’s a difficult process, and we really do care.”  

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  • E

    ErikaFeb 3, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Do you know if Whitman prefers IB students over AP? I have so many electives and sports next year that I was wondering if AP classes would be fine and I could just drop IB?

  • A

    Ann MarieOct 15, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    My gpa is sub par right now (3.16 but by the end of this year i’m hoping to get up to at least a 3.3) but I’m verrrry involved in the community, extracurriculars, dance team (no cheerleading at my school), and electives and I have really strong SAT scores. Is there any way I would get in or would my GPA make my chances a lot slimmer?

  • J

    Jim HansonApr 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    the line “Even with the lowest acceptable GPA for a prospective Whitman student at 3.89” really should have read as “The average GPA for a prospective Whitman student was 3.89.”

    my experience as a professor who recruits debaters and works closely with the admission office is that below about 3.7, things get much more difficult to get in but the gpa and obviously the higher that number goes, the better your odds but it is not the end all of admission decisions. your essay counts. improvements in your gpa count. what you bring to whitman counts. you might have a specific problem causing your gpa to be lower–explaining that helps. the admission office does a very good job of looking at the whole person applying–not just the number.

  • J

    Justin RoseDec 9, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    For the fall 2010 Early Decision students, is it really true that the minimum GPA is 3.89? Whitman is my dream college and I don’t have those kind of grades, but in my interview I was told that it wouldn’t matter and I would still be considered. Please tell me. I have never heard anything like that before (the AVERAGE GPA for Whitman last year was 3.78, meaning they accepted people with far lower GPA’s than that).

    • C

      C.J. WislerDec 9, 2009 at 11:31 pm

      The average GPA changes year to year. This year the average GPA of an accepted Whitman student was higher because it was far more competitive. However, most of what colleges look at anymore is what you are involved in, what you have accomplished, and your SAT/ACT scores. Your essay counts for a lot as well – you need to express what you can bring to Whitman that will add to the community. Don’t freak too much about your GPA.

      • C

        C.J. WislerDec 9, 2009 at 11:32 pm

        Correction: the average GPA that was 3.89 was the incoming class of 2012 – two years ago.

        • B

          bryanDec 24, 2009 at 1:13 pm

          hey im a junior at west valley high. i screwed around alot in the past years and i realy want to go to whitman but my gpa can only get to a 3.3 gpa is there still a possible way to get in?

          • C

            C.J. WislerDec 24, 2009 at 3:37 pm

            I cannot speak for Whitman College’s Admissions Office. You would have to email them. I would say work hard the next few months, apply, work hard on your essays, and see what happens.

    • D

      DangermouseMay 19, 2010 at 5:55 pm

      I was accepted to Whitman in 2005 with a 3.4 GPA. Granted, I was an AP student and was heavily involved in community events and other extracurriculars (orchestra, debate, theater, tennis).

      My point is that your GPA is a fraction of what you bring to the table as an applicant; likewise, it does not reflect the difficulty of your course load. Grade improvement counts too–freshman year I had a 3.0, but senior year it was a 3.9.

      • J

        juliaSep 20, 2010 at 10:47 pm

        so you were admitted to Whitman College? Exactly how much were you involved with the community? I have several hundred hours of service, i’m an officer of a couple clubs (i even helped start one), i’ve only been taking IB classes for the last two years… but my gpa is 3.6, and my SAT/ACT score blows. would i at least have a 50% chance of being admitted?