What are you looking for in an applicant?

Susan Hartley Brisson

This question comes up at just about every on-campus information session or meeting with a student and family on the road.  Often it’s a “just between us” murmur from a parent or other adult, but just as frequently, it can come from an eager and enthusiastic student who is thinking that Olin is the place they may want to be!

And like so many of life’s questions, the answer is complicated. 

The Bunny System

Photo credit: The Bunny System (Audrey Soffa, atacs278@nyu.edu)  

At Olin, we have a holistic admission practice.  What that means is we evaluate every component of your application carefully.  While we expect that Olin applicants will have selected a rigorous curriculum (including calculus and physics) at their school and have performed well in it, we recognize that not every person has access to the same resources and opportunities.  So we look at your transcript within the context of what’s been available to you at your school.  Test scores give us an additional piece of academic information.  We require either the SAT with writing OR the ACT with writing.  Either one is fine.  We don’t have a preference.  Really.  If you’ve taken additional tests like the SAT Subject tests or AP tests or IB exams, and you want to submit those scores too, we will consider them, but they are supplemental information (that is to say, not a required part of the application).

We ask for two teacher recommendations, one from a math or science teacher and another from a teacher who has taught you in a core academic subject.  (So not your soccer coach or robotics advisor unless that person has been your teacher as well.)  Your school counselor will also write a recommendation, and all three of these pieces of writing will help us to understand what kind of student you are, how you think and what your academic journey through high school has been like.  Your recommenders will also probably give us insight into your personal qualities as well:  how much you care about and participate in your community, whether you are a reserved, hardworking pillar or a more outgoing, charismatic leader.  Or a bit of both.

In addition to the Common App essay question, we also have two Olin-specific supplements.  Through your essays, we get to hear your voice in the application and to know you through your own writing.  So please use these opportunities to help us understand why you see Olin as a good place for you to pursue your hopes and dreams – and what you would like to bring to the Olin community as a potential new member. 

But what are we looking for?  That’s the question. 

We are looking for students who are empathetic 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 change. 

Maybe that’s you.

Posted in: Susan, All Admission Staff Blogs, FAQs