8 Minutes to Make it into an Elite College – How Fencing Helps Applicants Stand OutWhen we think of the amount of time that students put into their college applications, we think not only about the time that is sunk into writing the essay and filling out the forms, but also the years of test preparation, extra-curricular activities, and time in the classroom. That one application is the sum total of years of hard work.

What we don’t often think about is how much time the universities themselves spend reviewing that application – the college admissions process is a bit of a mystical mystery! A recent article in the Wall Street Journal shed some light on how much time universities actually spend on those highly sought after applications, and it’s a timeline that’s surprising.


That’s right, top schools in the United States are increasingly overwhelmed with the numbers of applications that they receive. Where once it would be the case that schools would have one person read and entire application – transcripts, test scores, extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations – those pieces are increasingly being put into an assembly line process where just one person reads each section. According to the piece in the WSJ, top schools like Rice University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania have several people read their section at the same time, then they discuss what they read and make the call to move forward or not with the applicant. It all can take less than eight minutes. With this process, a panel can get through up to five hundred applications in a single day. That’s a number that’s hard to imagine!

What Eight Minute Reviews Mean

That kind of timeframe for the review of an application means that high school students who aspire to get into top schools need to do everything that they can to stand out. Their applications must have that special thing that draws the attention of the admissions officer that’s reading that section of their application. Keep in mind, in this process each section of that college application is read by one individual, and then a committee comes together to discuss their opinions.

It’s more important than ever that applications are well rounded.

Whichever admissions officer is reading the extra-curricular portion of the application process is going to see the same things over and over again. Applicants must participate in activities that give the reader that “whoa” or that “wow”. With this new trend in college admissions, it’s time to think in terms not only of getting something really fantastic in one area, but because there isn’t just a single reader, you’ve now got to impress a team.

This means having a strong:

  • Resume – What is your impact on society? Did you save the penguins or feed a village?
  • Essay – What is your feeling about how you fit into the world? Did you learn humility or passion?
  • Recommendations – Did you get a recommendation from an accomplished person? A former world champion fencer or a teacher who graduated from the top school you want to attend?
  • Academics – Were you able to balance the things that you do outside of the classroom with your school work? Did those grades and test scores show off your real intelligence?
  • Extra-curriculars – Did you show that you stuck with something over the course of a long-time period? Did you represent the USA in the World Cup (which is possible in fencing)?

Fencing offers a special edge

Fencing is a niche sport, one that captures the imagination of everyone. It’s exciting and shows a dedication to learning something new and innovative.

Fencers who compete have the chance to work hard towards qualifications that show their accomplishment in the sport. Not only that, but because fencing is an individual sport, it’s clear that whatever those accomplishments are, they belong to the fencer alone and not to the whole team. Fencing showcases the individual’s accomplishment!

We know from experience that, while there is nothing that will guarantee that you get into the college of your choice, fencing is a sport that leaves an impression on college admissions officers. It’s unusual, and it has a competitive system that has so many opportunities to accomplish things that stand out on that extra-curricular section of the college resume!

What colleges really want to see, no matter what their admission process might be, is that a student has drive and passion. Their goal is to admit high school seniors who have demonstrated that they are able to succeed in stressful situations and to overcome obstacles. It doesn’t matter if the admissions office spends eight minutes or eighty minutes reviewing your application, they are always wanting to see that the you have what it takes to accomplish your goals.

Fencing gives high school students a sport that they can be passionate about, one that showcases how much they have to give in terms of discipline, focus, and drive. Those are skills that will bleed out onto other parts of the application as students feel confident in writing their essays and improve their academics. When colleges are looking for holistic applicants, they find them in fencers! 

Stand out, do what you love to do, and use it to build the future that you dream about!