Issue 23: What admissions officers really think about SATs and helicopter parents, plus what happened when we contacted Dartmouth for our weekly Q&A advice column

Exclusive Insider Interview: Admissions Officer, Soka University

How admissions officers react when parents pretend to be their kids. A school that pays for their accepted students to fly to campus. And how admissions is more intuitive than calculated. This week, SocratesPost continues our exclusive insider interview with Soka University admissions officer, Aaron Perry, who delves into the inner workings of student SoCal college. To catch up from the first part of our interview, click here.

Mercy at SocratesPost: What is something that, based on your experience and observations, applicants seem to misunderstand about getting into Soka?

Aaron at Soka: I think the class size itself. They might hear 112 or 115 or whatever and think, “Okay, that’s pretty good.” That’s not a lot of seats at all. It might as well be 50. It is very small. I think that’s kind of their hardest thing to wrap their minds around is we have like a 38% acceptance rate. And again, you’re competing with really the world, because we’re a very global campus. We have an international population. It’s tough.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Well that tells you it’s like you will most likely not getting in because 38% is much lower than even half. It’s not like it’s a 50/50 or it’s a toss-up.

Aaron at Soka: No one’s even a coin flip. And so I think that to me, probably the harder part of my job too, is getting as many students excited about it and knowing that I’m not going to be able to take them all.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Yeah, that’s true. Have you regretted any decisions that you’ve made on either accepting or rejecting an applicant?

Aaron at Soka: I’ve never regretted an admit. I’ve definitely been saddened to have to let someone choose another school and then oftentimes it’s UCLA, Stanford, Cornell. It’s like, “Yeah, go ahead. That’s amazing. Please don’t be hurt.” I’m really happy when I get to consider a student, moreso when they matriculate, because we do a sort of onboarding experience of Soka event that we plan. In that I’m often getting to be the one to be like, “Hey, congratulations. Once again, we want to fly you out and treat you to a weekend.”

Mercy at SocratesPost: It’s very personal.

Aaron at Soka: It’s super personal. I’ll call a parent. “We’re actually wanting to pay for everything.” And they’re like, “Why? Why would you want to do that? I don’t understand.” “Well you’ve got an amazing student and we want to make sure they got everything that they want.”

Mercy at SocratesPost: Does every student get that?

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Mercy at SocratesPost: That’s one of the benefits in this small school. It’s just all the personalized attention. Of course people talk about faculty to student ratio, but that’s not the only thing. There’s also your connection with the administration and with how much detail the counselors are putting into helping you transition.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Speaking of family, a lot of admissions counselors have an opinion on the influence of families and parents on students’ applications. What is your take on that?

Mercy at SocratesPost: Does that happen?
Mercy at SocratesPost: Can you tell though, because it’s a more mature voice, maybe they’re using more mature vocabulary and they don’t sound like they’re 17?

Mercy at SocratesPost: Does that reflect poorly on the student?

Mercy at SocratesPost: That makes sense. So it sounds like you’re talking about there is no real rubric or rating system or check boxes that you use to evaluate. So is what you’re doing when you’re evaluating intuitive, subjective? Is it based on your understanding of Soka as an alum but also an admissions counselor?

Mercy at SocratesPost: It’s interesting that not only the students can express their individuality on campus, but it’s almost like each admissions counselor can express their individuality when doing evaluations. So it’s almost, it’s very cohesive. Your values are present among the people who work for Soka, but also the people that you’re serving.
Stay tuned for more of our exclusive insider interview with Aaron next week!


SocratesPost brought on Badri J., a Hyderabad-based cartoonist, to create original, college admissions-related cartoons just for our readers. We know college admissions is hard, but as Lord Byron put it, “Always laugh when you can: it is cheap medicine.” Find more of Badri’s work on Instagram and Twitter. Enjoy!

Dear Socrates Q&A

This week, we selected a question from Kristin, a parent of a high schooler in San Diego:

“My daughter wants to study Computer Science in college and is particularly interested in programs like Dartmouth which has a BS and a Masters program in Computer Science with Digital Art. What other AP-level courses should she take to round out her application since AP options in Art and CS are limited? Her advisor is telling her to not take things like AP Chemistry and just focus on art and computer science. Because her interests are a little more niche, it’s hard to understand the right path for her. I am concerned about the advice to not consider AP Sciences, etc, especially if she wants to major in CS.”

We enlisted the help of Dartmouth’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions to get you a fully-researched answer. Over the course of a recent conversation with a Dartmouth admissions representative, we concluded that for the purposes of getting into Dartmouth, your daughter’s counselor is mostly right. She should focus on art and computer science. Here’s the rest of what happened when we contacted Dartmouth for answers straight from the source.

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SocratesPost is always on the frontlines scouring the news for relevant updates in the college admissions landscape. We look for anything that can help shape our understanding of the latest trends in admissions and help our readers see the direction in which we’re moving. Questions we explored this week:

  • Where are free colleges and how do I graduate debt free?
  • True or false? There are more international college students than ever.
  • What does College Board, the administrator of the SAT and AP tests, think are the two keys to success in college and life?