Denison admissions insider: The one question that stumps Denison applicants the most?

This week, we hear from Radhika Joshi, one of Denison University’s former admissions interviewers. While an undergraduate at one of the top liberal arts colleges in the U.S., Radhika interviewed prospective applicants on behalf of the Office of Admissions.

Founded in 1831, Denison is the second oldest liberal arts college in Ohio with a 34% acceptance rate. Nearly 20% of Denison students are international students.

A little bit on admissions interviewers. Admissions interviewers get to see a side of an applicant that most application readers and committee members don’t: they get to actually meet and converse with the hopeful, then pass on their recommendations to the committee. The insights they gather from a face-to-face conversation are boundless: quality of character, ability to connect with others, interest in the university, maturity, and eloquence, among others. I was an admissions interviewer for Northwestern University who worked alongside the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to seek true standouts and filter out the average in my local area. Though admissions interviews are sometimes optional for certain institutions, they do matter.

As Radhika explained, “there's only so much that you can communicate through a piece of paper, through your SAT scores, your activities. It really makes a difference to have an interview just so you can really explain what you've been up to and why you want to go to this school you're interviewing at.”

Exclusive Insider Interview: Denison University, Senior Admissions Interviewer

Mercy at SocratesPost: What was the biggest stumper question you’d ask prospective students?

Radhika at Denison: I like to ask questions like, ‘how would your friends describe you? Or what are your 3 most important characteristics?’ And I don't think students expect that. It was mostly questions that were more introspective and looking beyond their academics and extracurricular activities that usually stump students.

Mercy at SocratesPost: What types of applicants impress you the most?

Radhika at Denison: What really impressed me with some of the most impressive students that I interviewed was the passion for whatever it is they're doing. You can be doing six extracurricular activities and have a 4.5 GPA and have a great SAT scores, but if you're not passionate about what you're doing and why you're doing it then that really comes across -- as opposed to doing fewer activities or being involved in fewer things that you truly care about, or you're doing it not just to look at it on your résumé or not just to look at it on your college application but because it's something you truly enjoy.

I remember one time a student I was interviewing told me that he was a state-level champion for boomerang throwing. Now, I didn't realize boomerang throwing was a competitive sport at all. But really, it was something that he shared with his family and something that he really enjoyed, and that really came across to me as somebody who's passionate and hard-working, obviously not in the conventional arenas that we see, but still an athlete who's very accomplished in something they love doing.

Mercy at SocratesPost: How would a prospective applicant show passion through a list of extracurriculars or in an interview? Because it's not convincing enough for me to just say "I'm passionate about engineering." I have to show it.”

Continue to learn how Radhika wants you to show passion and get noticed by top liberal arts colleges like Denison →

Here’s a preview of the rest of our conversation! Subscribe to read the rest and support our ad-free newsletter.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Along those lines, it seems like every applicant these days have really strong grades, strong leadership, great test scores and essays... How does someone really, really stand out from the crowd?

Mercy at SocratesPost: What aspects of the college admissions process are least understood by applicants and their families?

For Radhika’s answer to what you should know, stay tuned for the next issue.

Answers to your burning questions!

Subscribe to read full articles and ask your questions.

Already a subscriber? Log in