Episode Six of Podcast ‘The Search’: Knowing What Counts

News subtitle

Dartmouth’s Lee Coffin talks about the college admissions process.

Lee Coffin, and his dog, sit on his couch.
Photo courtesy of Lee Coffin



Just about everywhere he goes, Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, gets the same question from parents and students about the criteria used to determine admission to Dartmouth.

“What counts?”

“Everything counts,” he explains in this episode, and everything counts in an interesting combination of ways.

To broaden perspectives on that question, Coffin talks with Leigh Weisenburger, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine, and Sonia Bell, director of college counseling at St. Luke’s School, in New Canaan, Conn.

Both Coffin and Weisenburger evaluate student applications “holistically,” considering test scores, transcripts, and recommendations within the context of students’ personal circumstances and the programs available in the secondary schools they attend.

“A GPA all by itself, let’s say a 3.92, doesn’t tell you very much,” notes Coffin. “What was the curriculum that produced that 3.92? What was the rigor that was available in that high school?”

Another question that looms large this year: Who can take standardized tests, and who can’t easily access those sites? Because many colleges, including Dartmouth, are making the submission of SAT or ACT scores optional, many students are wondering about the pros and cons of skipping the exams, or keeping results to themselves.

“You should ask each institution exactly what their ‘test optional policy is’ and how that plays out in their admission process,” Weisenburger advises.

“At Dartmouth,” Coffin adds, “optional means optional. It’s not a trick question.”

“The Search” is now available on SoundCloud and the Department of Admissions website, and will also be available on Spotify, Apple Music, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio, Pandora, RadioPublic, iHeart Radio, and Google Podcast.

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