Which Decisions Do You Regret?

As as admissions officer, have you ever regretted rejecting a student after seeing them succeed at another university or the real world?

I was asked to answer the this question on the website Quora.com


Before I answer your question directly I think it might be useful to quote a part of my response to another question I was asked on Quora: What are some confessions of a college admissions officer?:

“Given what I have written, I have to confess that I have made mistakes about students. There are some students I have not admitted who, after looking over the application, after the fact, I have said to myself: “What was I thinking?” Any admission officer can manufacture a reason not to take someone. And the reverse is true too in terms of accepting people. There have been times when in reviewing decisions I think I was far too snarky about an essay, or sniffed too judgmentally about an academic program or an SAT score. But here’s the thing. I have been in touch with some of these students and the fact is getting into a specific school as a senior seems like the biggest deal in the world to some but it really isn’t. “

Admission officers spend untold hours reading thorough applications. Most that I know put in hours that compare to those working in financial services — although the remuneration is not at all similar. Most try to be consistent and rational in how they make their assessments. I am willing, however, to say I did not always get things “right” even if at the time I made the decision I thought I did. I preface my answer to your question with these words because I do think it important to state that admission officers are imperfect beings as are the whole human species. But I think any admission officer who felt regret when a student who attended another school did well is petty and small-minded. We are in education because we want to help students succeed. Nothing could make me happier than to hear of the success of a student I did not admit.

I will, in addition, describe briefly two students that I am glad did not graduate from my university. The first was a student who was accepted at the university I worked for. The father brought her in to my office and gave me strict instructions (out of earshot of his daughter) to try and talk his daughter into attending my school. He was an alum and his daughter was choosing between a research university where I worked and a art and design school. I brought the daughter to my office and after hearing about her passion for design and fashion I told her she would be better off going to the other school. When dad found out what i had said he wrote a very nasty letter, but he did let her go to the art school. Nearly 10 years later the father came to my office. He said he needed to talk to me. He had a magazine he handed to me,.It might have been Vogue, but in any case, one of the featured designers of shoes in an article was his daughter. He came to apologize and say I was right about his daughter. I am not sure “right” is the correct word; instead, I think I felt the other school was a better match given the student’s passion.

In a similar vein, not that long ago, on this blog, I featured a former student who just had her first show in NYC during fashion week. She has been featured since then in many magazines and websites. She originally attended the University I worked for as had her older brother and sister. But is was not a good fit. She wanted to transfer and I helped her to do so. She too went to art school and the rest is, as they say, history.

Parke Muth, consultant: Formula For Success: KL + US + Uva + SAIC = Fashion Week in NYC:

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