I looked at my admissions file, here’s what I saw

Oct. 16, 2019, 7:51 p.m.

It’s 12:59 p.m., and I’m hopelessly rushing up the stairs of Tresidder. Why?

I’m supposed to be viewing my admissions file in exactly one minute. Whoops. Looks like I’ll be late, which is ironic because the last time I tried to view my file, I was too early. You see, over the summer, my overly eager self tried viewing my admissions file to no avail: I got a short email in response saying that I wasn’t officially a student until NSO and therefore wasn’t entitled to view my file. So I waited. Until the first day of school, that is.

Three weeks later and I found myself using TreeMap, rushing to find the place a minute before the appointment. I finally find it and walk in, slightly sweaty and mentally preparing to ask the question that every Stanford student has asked themselves at some point: Why did I get in?

After confirming my appointment, I’m led through the halls by a kind lady with a pink dress. In a heavy silence, we walk behind the scenes — behind the front desks and cubicles to a back room where I see a computer and divider waiting for me. 

“No electronics. You have 20 minutes; I’ll warn you when there are five minutes remaining,” she says. 

After getting a little nervous and temporarily forgetting how to use a computer, I get to business. Pulling out my papers and my favorite Pilot G2 0.5 mm black gel pen, I prepare to write a lot.

For some time, I wonder. I wonder what made them give me that magical seal of acceptance to the most amazing university in the world. I wonder what moved those admissions officers to accept my application and make my dream school a reality. Soon enough, I’ll find out. I hope.

But I’m not sure. 

A week prior, they had sent me an email to warn me. They had said:

 “… the admissions office implemented a new policy of purging the reader comments, docket and interview once an accepted student enrolled in their first quarter. Occasionally, a delay in the process causes documents to remain in student files for an extended period prior to being purged.

“For … current students not admitted to the Class of 2022, you can expect to see [the common app and transcripts]. If you are no longer interested in viewing your file in light of this information, please respond to this email with your approval to close the FERPA request.”

So basically, I could see everything because of a delay, or nothing because they purged it.

I scrolled down past the first page and found that, luckily, I was part of the “delay in the process,” and I was able to see my file.

The first thing I see is all letters and numbers — Stanford acronyms like you’ve never seen before. TSR, HSR, Sup, EC, SPIV, CAPE, MD, IVE, PE — everything is encoded in a mysterious admissions officer language. Luckily, I’m able to decipher some of them, or at least I take my best guess. Perhaps HSR is high school rigor. EC is obviously extracurriculars. SPIV is some type of intellectual vitality. CAPE is common app personal essay. But below the wealth of acronyms is a shit ton of numbers. Scores. Elements of my application that were quantitatively determined. Overall ratings.

It’s a strange feeling, seeing the docket full of numbers. From what I know, the scale is from one to six, one being the best and six being the worst. Being quantified feels weird, and out of curiosity, I wonder how I fare. But in that moment, it was just me, the computer and the admission officer’s remarks of the past.  

I scrolled down more, and I started to see words — actual words, living, breathing comments. 

Reader one pops up on the screen. An actual person. Half of the reason why I was admitted. “Ecy King is an exciting candidate…”

It starts off positively. But the sensation of hearing the reader in my head, of feeling the mood of the reader as they eyed my application, that was surreal. Hard to describe. Oddly spiritual. Definitely enlightening. Somewhat scary.  

Seeing comments ranging from my attitude about learning, to my AP scores, to my grades and lack of “solids” (I took a lot of choir classes), I absorbed reader one’s comments like a sponge. A mix of emotions coursed through me, from contented realization to flickers of doubt: What if I had changed a couple things about my application. Would I still be here? 

With a smile on my face and a flutter in my heart, I read one of the reader’s last comments: “I’m leaning in for Ecy because…”

They had to fight for me. They had to fight for all of us, and we’re here for a reason.

Going on to reader two, my heart once again was pounding. Interestingly enough, both officers mentioned my additional info page, which apparently contained a lot of “character and personality” and “charm.” 

It was interesting to see what they paid attention to, what extracurriculars they defined me by and what about my enthusiasm they found so attractive.

The best part of my application was probably viewing the interviewer comments. She wrote about four or five paragraphs about the interview and gave me three ratings: IV (intellectual vitality), depth/commitment and character/self-presentation. Reading her words put a smile on my face; it was a positive affirmation that gave me faith in myself as a person. 

I was surprised to find the extent to which I was reduced to numbers. It wasn’t only a matter of ratings, but the fraction of APs I took to how many were offered, the ratio of honors classes I took to those available, my rank and even AP scores were all present in my application. Not only that, all sorts of demographic information was present about my school.

I was most surprised by how much personality and passion played a role in landing me a spot.  

At the end of my 20 minutes, I had filled out two pages, front and back. I walked out feeling  out of my own body. Weirdly spiritual. As if my purpose was clear. I called my mom. I walked my bike. I saw my place at Stanford through new eyes. I felt grateful, proud, confused, curious. Those comments represent the thoughts and words that led to me being here. Right here, at this moment, writing this article in my comfy dorm room at freaking STANFORD UNIVERSITY.  

We all belong here, for one reason or another. The admission officers saw something in us that made them lean in, grab our application and say: “Yes, we’re taking this one.” Everyday, I’m reminded of how great this place is. Would I recommend viewing your admissions file? Yes I would, as I think that it’s an overall positive experience and can be used as a learning experience, but if you choose not to view it, that’s completely valid. If you’re going to view it, try to view it soon because the later you go, the more they redact (a.k.a more black marker on your application).

We’re here. We’ve made it, and our experiences at Nerd Nation tell us so. 

Often at Stanford, it’s easy to feel the Imposter Syndrome — asking the question of whether one is truly smart enough to be here. But from conversations at late night to in-class discussions that continue after class, from discovering everybody’s secret talents to which dining halls have the best food on Wednesdays, from taking in the perfect weather to biking and ogling at the beauty of the quad, I feel it.

It’s a strange sense that indeed, I do belong here; that I, Ecy King, am taking my rightful place at this dream of a university.

We’re part of the culture. We’re a part of this school. We’re a part of this crazy thing called life.

Does an admission officer need to tell you that? No. Because fate already did.

Why did I get into Stanford? I think my heart knows the answer; or rather, I feel it. We just simply belong. Here. Right now.  

In light of viewing my file, many people have been asking how they can view their files. I’ve posted the instructions below.  

How to view your admissions file:

1) Search “Stanford request for records” in the search box.

2) Click the subsequent link. 

3) Request records for current student.

4) Log in and fill out the subsequent form.

5) You should get an email; within 45 days they’ll respond to you.

6) The sooner the better; the later you go, the more they redact. 

Enjoy looking at your file.

Contact Ecy King at ecyfemi ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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