What are we looking for?

Susan Hartley Brisson

I met a student a couple of weeks ago who had done their research and had decided that Olin was one of their top college choices. After some enthusiastic chatter about the beauty of the campus and the opportunities presented by the BOW collaboration, the inevitable question broke forth from their lips: “So what are you looking for in an applicant anyway?” As I began to explain about our holistic admission process, first incredulity, then disdain and finally fear flickered across the student’s face. “What does that even mean??” they blurted out. “I just want to know what kind of students get into Olin.” 

Fair enough, I thought, but the answer isn’t straightforward in the way you want. Of course, we will look carefully at your academic record, considering not only your grades, but also the rigor of your curriculum within the lens of what’s been available to you at your school. Test scores (either SAT or ACT) provide additional context to our academic review, but neither make nor break an application. Once we’re satisfied that a student has appropriate preparation for the challenging Olin curriculum, we will then turn our attention to the essays, recommendations and extracurricular information. Through our evaluation of these parts of an application, we are trying to learn more about what kind of person you are, what excites and inspires you, and why you think that Olin might be the place where you will best be able to learn and grow and evolve over the next four or so years. This is the part where everyone gets a little squeamish: the academic record is quantified and mostly clear enough, but the personal qualities...which ones?

We are looking for students who are empathetic and humble and committed to making the world a better place through engineering. We’re looking for students who are prepared for the academic challenges we offer. We’re looking for students who are willing to experiment and willing to fail, who aren’t looking for the “right” answer but who are looking to ask the best questions. We’re looking for students who will be able to embrace our inter-disciplinary, project-based curriculum and take ownership of their own learning. We’re looking for students who want to build, create, design, and help people and effect positive change. 

Maybe that’s you.

Posted in: Susan, All Admission Staff Blogs