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How does Tina Fey's movie "Admission" cmpare to realy college admissions?We’re huge fans of Tina Fey, and with her new movie, “Admission,” she enters into the college-bound world, portraying an admissions officer at Princeton University. But Hollywood’s version of the college acceptance process has some inaccuracies.

Here’s a look what is real versus movie-madness in “Admission.”

The Admissions Process

Accurate: College applicants do need to use details — beyond SAT scores and GPA — to paint a clear picture of themselves for admission committees. In “Admission,” fictitious applicants appear in front of Fey’s character as she reads their files. As an applicant, you want to provide enough details so an admission committee can imagine who you are, says Rachel Rubin, owner of Spark Admissions, an elite college admission consulting firm based in Boston.

Misleading: In the movie, Fey or other committee members present each student and put them up for a vote. Luckily, the decision process is much more complex. Though the exact process likely differs at each college, the readers usually have a rubric they follow as they read each application, and applicants usually receive a score. It’s much more than just “accept” or “deny,” which avoids favoritism or “plugging” a particular student.

Accurate: In “Admission,” a low GPA and poor academic performance resulted in one applicant’s rejection from Princeton. Having high SAT scores and GPAs will help you avoid immediate rejection, says Rubin, who previously served on the admissions committees at Harvard University. She adds: Admission committees want to make sure that applicants can, unequivocally, succeed academically.

Misleading: For many colleges, you will not have an interview with alumni or staff to show your personality or passion. This is often reserved for scholarships or the country’s most selective schools. For the most part, at the undergraduate or graduate levels, you only have your application. Make the most of it and be creative. Admissions staff read thousands of these applications each year, so find ways to stand out with your interests and writing.

Accurate: Fey’s character tries to persuade the admission committee that the unique strengths of one of her favorite applicants outweighed his perceived weaknesses. It didn’t work, but Rubin says it’s a good approach. If you explain your strengths clearly, your unique assets can outweigh major weaknesses, in the eyes of an admission committee.

Misleading: “Admission” glossed over the importance of the academic transcript. One of the most important things an applicant can do is prove that you challenge yourself academically, says Rubin, who has studied how selective U.S. colleges make admission decisions. Taking a rigorous course load demonstrates your willingness and ability to work hard and persevere.

Accurate: There are a few moments where “Admission” shows more than one person looking at your application, and this is true. Don’t be worried that only one person is making the big decision about your next life step. There are often two or more readers for an application, and if there is any disagreement, that application goes to a third or fourth reader for consideration.

-Additional reporting by Carolyn Crist



Lori Johnston

Lori Johnston is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga. She is a former Associated Press reporter and has contributed to many publications, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle, and People magazine. A 1995 graduate of the University of Georgia, Johnston also serves as an adjunct professor in the school’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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