Interview with an admissions officer

Robert Springall, dean of undergraduate admissions at Bucknell University

Interview with an admissions officer

Thank you to Dean Robert Springall for participating in Parliament’s Admissions Spotlight Series. Dean Springall is the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Bucknell University.  Miriam Attia, an SAT Tutor with Parliament Tutors, conducted this interview.

As the Dean of Admissions, what are your day-to-day responsibilities?
My job at Bucknell is to work with great colleagues in the Admissions Office, and people across our campus, to tell the University's story to prospective students around the world. We are also responsible for coordinating the effort to select and enroll the class of 925 first-year students annually from over 8,000 applicants.

What do you consider the most significant parts of an application, the parts which applicants should prepare the most carefully?
The most important part of the application is a student's high school transcript. The best work a student can do is make sure his or her day-in-day-out work in the classroom appropriately reflects interests and abilities.

Is there anything you frequently see on an application that you hope to never see again?
I see too many students who do service on trips half way around the world, but don't show the same commitment to their local community. It's not too common, fortunately. My personal belief is that service starts in one's neighborhood. There is nothing impressive about a four-day service trip to a far-off country if you wouldn't do that same act for unfortunate people in your own town.

If you ARE the type of person who does both, or just volunteers locally, I say, "Thank you. We need more people like you."

What common pitfalls should applicants be careful to avoid?
Short-answer questions: A short, one-paragraph response still needs to be thoughtful and checked for spelling and grammar.

Are there any myths about the application process which you would like to dispel?
That there is such as thing as a "bad" SAT score, or that a 2300 SAT score is markedly better than a 2200. SATs are just one measure, and the best admissions people know that standardizing testing is a tool that needs to be used very carefully.

What advice would you give to an applicant with below-average test scores but significant extra-curricular experience?
Take nothing for granted when you complete your application. Make sure your materials are complete and on-time. If you're asked about your interest in a particular program, state it as well as you can. And if there are circumstances to explain a poor score or a dip in your record, make sure to describe it and to get your counselor or a teacher too as well.

Do you frequently have to turn away applicants whom you wish you could admit? If so, what could those applicants do to be admitted?
Bucknell is a selective institution and we are fortunate to have a large applicant pool for the admissions committee to review. Unfortunately, a majority of applicants are denied or placed on a wait list.

We value how thorough a student has been in the college search process and look for students who help the committee make the match between the student's interest and what Bucknell offers. The best way to be able to explain that is to do your research - review our web site, visit our campus, talk with alumni and connect with our admissions staff with questions.

How much faith do you have in the ability of the SAT to predict success at in college?
Our research has shown that the SAT does give us some indication of how a student will do at Bucknell in their first-year of college. The weight in our application review process, though, goes more to the high school performance and the rigor of the student's high school curriculum. Those are the more important indicators of success.

What do you look for in a recommendation letter?
We look for a recommendation letter that tells the admissions committee something about the candidate that will not come through on a transcript, an activity or the student essay. Teachers, for example, often tell us about how a student interacts with classmates. While that may not give us much more insight on a candidate's ability to do academic work, but it does tell us a lot about a person's ability to contribute and engage in the classroom and around campus.

Miriam Attia is a San Francisco Tutor with Parliament Tutors


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