Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Down to business with… Caitlin Smith, office of admissions

It’s not difficult to remember a time everyone was a prospective student, pouring their hearts into carefully crafted personal statements and sending them to a number of faceless institutions. On the other side of the process is the admissions office. Northwestern Undergraduate Office of Admissions reviewed around 31,000 applications this year. With decisions freshly printed and sent out just two weeks ago, Assistant Director of Admissions Caitlin Smith gives a name and a face to the other side.

Excerpts:

How do you keep from getting tired of reading applications?

Each application is so different. We’re looking at everything, and it’s really pretty cool that each student has a unique set of activities and perspective. The essays are interesting because it’s our one chance to get to know the student on a more personal level as opposed to what they’re doing in the classroom. Even though we’re doing a lot of reading and reviewing so many applications, these students are so impressive and interesting. That really adds to the variety even though it seems like we’re doing the same activity for a significant chunk of the year.

Have you picked up any special skills from reading so many applications?

Because this is my second year of doing it … I think my eyes and my mind have been trained to look to a certain part of the page when I’m piecing it all together. You pick up how to pick out personal qualities based on how students are writing and what they’re focusing on within the essays. I’ve figured it out in working with a lot of students. You get to know how to read people even though you’re not sitting down and talking to them.

What do you enjoy the most in the process of admissions?

I love the interaction with the prospective students. This time of year especially is really wonderful with our admitted student programming coming up, Wildcat Days. For us to get to see the kids whose applications we’ve read and who were outstanding enough to earn admission – to have them here and have them so excited – we have our work cut out. We’re showing them what incredible things we have to offer, and we have our tour guides to convince them this can be a good fit for them for the next four years.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Working with prospective students we will not be able to offer admission. It took me a while to get used to the fact that there is a better fit, and we can’t admit all the qualified applicants. That can be really difficult after having met some of the students and knowing they really want to go to Northwestern, to not being able to give them this opportunity. I’ve stayed in touch with some prospective students who had great experiences at Northwestern. They didn’t end up here, and ended up keeping me posted on their plans.

What do you like reading in applications?

One of my favorite parts of the application is the “Why Northwestern” statement. Maybe it’s in part because I’m an alumna; I like to see what it is prospective students connected to in particular. And because I supervise the tour guide program, I love it when prospective students mention their tour guide by name or mention specific quirks of their tour. Or when they have a cool combination of programs that they wouldn’t get to pursue elsewhere. Because I had such a great experience here and have found so many incredible, unique qualities of Northwestern, it’s really fun for me to see prospective students have identified those and see those as reasons to apply.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Down to business with… Caitlin Smith, office of admissions