Connie Bennett is senior assistant dean in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and reader of many application essays.
What has changed in the admissions process?
The online interaction colleges and universities now have with prospective students — from how students research institutions through their application and enrollment — has had an impact on our outreach with students, parents and school counselors. The ease of applying to college with an online application has increased the number of colleges to which students apply. Most students now apply to eight to 12 colleges vs. three or four. They are throwing their nets wide. What has not changed is the importance of the relationships we build with families as they move through the search process.
How many applications do you review?
While I review applications for all majors and programs, the majority of my work focuses on the review of freshman applications for our College of Nursing, direct-entry doctor of physical therapy and Pre-dental Scholars programs. Our application-reading season begins in December and concludes by mid-January. Though our reading season is intense, it is one of my favorite parts of the job. It is difficult to quantify how many applications I read within that timeframe but perhaps around 2,000.
The dreaded application essay — students write them and you read them. Do they matter?
Yes. The essay provides the student’s unique voice and personality. Beyond the transcript and test scores, the essay offers the opportunity to describe a personal experience that has affected their life or exposure to their chosen career field. Or it can provide details of a personal situation that had an impact on their academic record. Marquette’s holistic review of a student’s application file allows us to include a student’s written submission in our decision process. My advice to any student is to take the care and time when writing the essay because it is a reflection of you.
How do you prepare to read essays?
Students take the time, effort and thought to submit an application with the hope of joining the Marquette community. That serves as an important reminder for me to make sure I give as much attention to the 50th application as I did to the first application to reach my desk.
What will catch your eye?
A student who shares a glimpse into his or her personal story. When I finish reading a student’s full application and say to myself “I want to meet him!” I know he did a great job sharing his story with us.
Could you describe one of the best essays you’ve read and why it stood out?
One of my favorite essays from last year’s incoming freshman class came from a young woman who summarized her life to this point from the perspective of the family’s card table. She provided a great description of how the family card table was there for every birthday party, First Communion, pumpkin carving session, family pot luck supper and Christmas party, and it would soon be holding her graduation cake. I thought it was an extremely creative way of sharing her personal story.
What three words describe Marquette-ready students?
Ready to engage.