1. We have a small staff
We have about a dozen people who process and file documents. They had all EA and RD documents that were submitted by mail filed before we closed to the office for a three-day Christmas break. Since the 29th, they've been back at it.
There are about 18 admission officers reading full time between late October and late March to review applications. That's a fairly small staff for our applicant pool (when this blog started, we were able to send decisions to our much smaller early pool in December). We've been told that many of our peers have double the number of staff members we do OR have dramatically different review procedures that allow them to move through the bulk of their applications more quickly.
2. We read our applications. All of them.
Though our office went paperless years ago, our review is still fairly "old school." There are no preliminary rounds where certain GPAs or test scores get applicants tossed to a deny pile (remember what I've said about GPAs). We don't score application components or use a rubric to render our decisions. If we did those things, perhaps we'd be able to have a six or eight week turnaround, but much of the application is prose and much of our review is done in prose as well.
Even though it takes a lot of time and results in us pulling crazy hours during the application reading season, I feel good about our review. While the transcript, showing four years of academic development, is the largest piece of the puzzle, our in-depth review allows me to understand more about you. I get to hear about the topics that excite you, the experiences that have influenced you, and the obstacles some of you have had to overcome.
We're building a class through this review. This isn't just about admitting qualified students. After all, the majority of applicants are qualified...that's why they are filling out the application. But we don't have the space for all the qualified students who apply, so we have this review to select a great class out of this great applicant pool.
I know this wait is hard. We are moving as quickly as possible without sacrificing the review. Hang in there!