Holistic Admission: The Whole Nine Yards

As anyone who knows me will confirm, I love sports metaphors.  After this web search, however, I’m realizing that one of my favorites, “the whole nine yards,” isn’t about football, as I had thought.  It does refer to the entirety of something, though, which is consistent with what I want to talk about in this blog.  When you apply to Olin, we consider carefully and thoroughly your entire application, the whole nine yards.

This kind of admission philosophy is called holistic (the whole thing!).  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.  We are test-optional again this application cycle.  If you choose to submit SAT or ACT scores, they may give us an additional piece of academic information which may provide some additional insight into your academic preparation.  I can’t stress this part enough though: they are optional – meaning not required.  It’s entirely up to you to submit or not – and it's not an inherent advantage to submit or a disadvantage not to.   

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, one of which is optional.  So again – that means it’s not required.  Through your essays, we get to hear your voice in the application and to know you through your own writing.  So please use this opportunity 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 on everyone’s lips.   

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 interdisciplinary, impact-centered, 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.