A look behind the scenes at the undergraduate admissions office

Flash back to your senior year in high school. Recall how suddenly important the daily mail delivery became. You wondered if you heard from any colleges. What size was the envelope? Control was totally out of your hands and it rested in the arms of the Uundergraduate Aadmissions officers.

There are two sides of the coin in terms of the admissions process. The first oOne is of course the students. Questions are constantly in the minds of these young, stressed adolescents. What is the average SAT score for this college? What should theirmy GPA be? Which teacher should write theirmy letter of recommendation? The other side of the coin involves the admissions officers. The future of the University of Miami UM lies in the Ashe Administration Building, in – room 132.

The admissions process is yearlong and nonstop. There are approximately 20 undergraduate admissions counselors who together, review over 21,000 applications altogether. Each year there are about 2,000 new incoming freshmen.

According to Edward M. Gillis, assistant vice president for enrollment management and executive director of admissions, being an admissions officer is not as easy as you think.
“Like so many University of Miami employees, most of us put in more than a typical 40-hour work week,” Gillis said.

Miami is now recognized as a premiere educational institution nationally as well as globally. “Not only do we have students from every state, but also students from over 100 different countries here. Our staff does travel internationally,” Gillis said.

For Gillis and his staff, diversity comes to them. Miami is a melting pot of all cultures. “We are always looking for the best students. Because of who we are we do attract a lot of diversity without really trying hard. We are very fortunate to have a diverse student body and it’s really a function of what the University of Miami really is.”

The question Gillis most often hears is what the most important thing undergraduate admissions officers look for in an applicant.
“It starts with the grades. [The student] needs to be in a very strong curriculum in high school and [the student] needs to be successful,” he said.

While the quality of the applicant pool has continued to rise, making Gillis’ and his staff’s jobs more difficult, the process of managing the applications has improved since more than 92 percent now apply electronically.

The computer makes the reviewing process a lot more efficient. But no matter what, according to Gillis, every student is given an equal opportunity.
“Every single student who applies here is given a fair and honest reading. Every piece of information sent to us is evaluated very carefully,” he said.

The SATs are another critical tool used to assess students. It is a standardized test broken up in to three parts, math, verbal, and writing. But according to Gillis, the writing section does not carry any weight in the evaluation process.

“We are not using the writing test at this point. We want to go another couple of years and have enough data so we can go back and look at that examination and look at the scores and see if that would have helped us make better admissions decisions,” he said.

Justin Antweil may be contacted at j.antweil@umiami.edu.

According to the University of Miami website.

Approximately 2/3 of incoming students are in top 10% of their high school class
Average weighted GPA is 4.2
Admitted student mid-range SAT score
25th percentile: 1240
75th percentile: 1380