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The New Norm for the College Application Process

Sep 21, 2021

UPenn has welcomed a new dean of admissions, who is committed to expanding “existing initiatives” for the Ivy League school’s admissions process.

Whitney Soule’s goal is to create additional opportunities for students to strengthen their applications in light of recent non-traditional high school learning experiences. Starting with this year’s 2021-2022 cycle, students will be given the opportunity to submit one non-teacher recommendation in place of a second teacher letter of recommendation. The non-teacher recommender can be a “friend, community member, leader, a contributor,” or anyone who can speak to the student’s character.

Soule has a history of instilling new changes to the application process at her previous school, Bowdoin College. There, she added the optional video response—a student is spontaneously asked a randomly selected question and has 30 seconds to answer. The former Bowdoin dean of admissions has also advocated for the use of test-optional policies, which have been in practice at Bowdoin since 1969.

Penn and Bowdoin are not alone in their use of “unique” application materials. Dartmouth requires each student to submit a peer recommendation to help the college admissions committee better understand an applicant as a friend, peer, and community member. The peer should know the candidate well. Examples of a strong peer recommender include a classmate, a co-worker, or a debate partner.

To read more about changes in UPenn’s admissions processes, you can check out their independent student media organization, The Daily Pennsylvanian!

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