Annu Subramanian: The ideal applicant

There are some achievements in life that cannot be attributed to grades. Scoring a game-winning goal, in the grand scheme of things, may go unnoticed. There’s no reward that accompanies earning the smile of a hungry child. And yet, it is often these events, and not an academic accolade, that compel us to act and propel us to success.

Yesterday – the deadline for regular decision applications to GW – thousands of hopeful and qualified high school students closed their eyes, said a silent prayer and submitted their request to join our undergraduate population. As we prepare to welcome the class of 2014, we should remember a few major elements that belong to the student who makes achievement a daily event in his or her life, and also regard the type of scholar who would best utilize his or her GW education.

It’s no surprise that many of the students who attend GW today were enchanted by D.C.’s allure as high schoolers. The District creates a winning combination of history, energy and opportunity. GW recruiters and tour guides seem to buff a few medals on their coat over and over again: our proximity to the White House, the variety and magnitude of internship programs, our network of alumni who have moved on to political positions – the list goes on. I never fail to be surprised by the way that students at GW use D.C. as their personal playground and workspace. Whether it is by becoming an expert on the culinary diversity of the District, spending finals studying at the Library of Congress or starting a D.C.-based nonprofit, GW students do not simply attend school in the District – D.C. is a part of their schooling.

Last year, nearly 20,000 high schoolers sought admission to GW. Only 37 percent were accepted. Sixty-seven percent of the students who comprise GW’s class of 2013 were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes. These competitive statistics indicate it is time that our school amend such a minimalist application and move toward one that demonstrates GW’s caliber of education and selectivity.

On the GW undergraduate application, its sole supplemental essay question is quite simple: “What most influenced you to apply to The George Washington University?”

As we seek out students who will improve the school and go on to become a pioneer in whatever field he or she champions, this application seems in want of a decisive component.

When selecting students who show promise, admissions officers should search for applicants who express their intentions to make D.C. an integral part of their educations, as well as how their lives thus far share something with the District. Students, as they expand upon their motivations and recall out-of-school achievements to admissions officers, paint a more vivid picture of not just themselves, but also the rising freshman class as a whole.

By integrating a series of school-specific questions about how prospective students will involve the District’s spectrum of opportunity, admissions officers can achieve a more comprehensive snapshot of a student’s potential and drive. A space like this would allow applicants another opportunity to share unique achievements and perhaps enlighten the admissions staff to the versatility of a student who transcends stellar GPAs and high test scores.

I realize that in adding a few more essay questions, we will not achieve all the answers. It may cause more work for the already-swamped admissions officers and may even turn some prospective students away from applying to GW, but as our school continues to move toward success, we must demand a commitment to success from our applicants.

But today, the last applications have trickled in, and we will soon welcome another class to Foggy Bottom. Admissions officers, I hope, will search for students who will contribute to the school and their future fields with an eye on their personal statements and will soon amend the undergraduate application model that exists today.

This time of realizing who will be joining GW next year is such an exciting one. But that might just be because I can’t wait to no longer be the baby freshman at the bottom of the ladder.

The writer, a freshman majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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