Inside the admissions process at George Washington University

Nick Anderson:

Britt Freitag, an admissions officer at George Washington University, confessed she was “slightly nervous” about a candidate for the Class of 2018. His grades were solid, but not stellar. The student had taken some tough courses, but not as many as Freitag would have liked. Test scores, she said, were “definitely on the low side.”

On the other hand, Freitag told two other officers one recent morning, the student compared favorably to his high school classmates, wrote a good essay, showed impressive determination in activities outside class — and had a family connection to GW.

“I could go either way,” Freitag said.

“Either way what?” asked her colleague, Jim Rogers.

Deny or admit, she said, stumped. Her voice fell to a murmur. “You think maybe he’s a wait-list?”

This is the kind of conversation high school seniors across America wish they could hear but never will. For the past few weeks, teams of gatekeepers at colleges have dissected the academic and personal lives of these students in a matter of minutes to reach decisions that will chart their future.


At that point, some tentative decisions might be reversed to boost the financial-aid budget. That could help a few borderline students from affluent families.