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The College Essay Guy Podcast: A Practical Guide to College Admissions

Jan 19, 2022

My guest this time is Tom Campbell — who at the time of this recording was Assistant Dean Of Admissions at Pomona College. Tom was formerly the Assistant Director Of Admissions at College of the Holy Cross, his alma mater, and also serves as a Group Leader, Essay Specialist and Faculty Member at the very awesome College Horizons.

This is another episode in our series that goes behind the scenes of an admissions office to let you know what happens when you click submit on your application—where does it go? Who reads it? What are they thinking? How do they make decisions?


In part one, we cover:

  • What happens after you hit submit through when you receive your decision?
  • How did the Test Optional policy impact admission decisions this year—and how are colleges like Pomona able to create a class without standardized tests?
  • How was application reading different from past years?
  • Essays: What do you look for in a great personal statement? How much do essays matter? Can they ever hurt your chances?
  • Demonstrated interest: How does it really work? What does Pomona track? What do other schools track?



  • [2:00] Meet Tom
  • [3:57] What we’re going to cover
  • [4:48] What is Tom’s job like right now, in April 2020?
  • [7:40] What is yield?
  • [9:00] What happens between students clicking submit to receiving a letter of acceptance (Pomona’s entire process)
  • [19:20] What is test-optional, and how does Pomona use test scores?
  • [25:39] How does Pomona put together a class? What are its institutional priorities? (Also more on testing)
  • [35:15] How were things different this year because of COVID-19?
  • [43:10] Tom names some common essay topics
  • [45:44] What does Tom look for in a personal statement? How much do essays matter?
  • [49:26] Q&A - How does a student's ability to pay tuition affect their chances at Pomona?
  • [50:35] Case study - in terms of institutional priorities, what did this student do well?
  • [56:22] How tough is it for full-need international students to be accepted?
  • [57:40] What does Tom have to say to students who think they must get accepted to a top university or else they’ve failed?
  • [59:58] How much does major choice matter when applying?