It doesn't necessarily take admissions officers long to figure out if an applicant has a fighting chance at getting into one of the country's top schools, one former officer told NBC News.
In interviews this week, the ex-admissions officers said their former colleagues comb through stacks of applications, pore over essays, scrutinize GPAs and try to help campuses winnow a vast pool of applicants to a select few.
They are the gatekeepers of what has become a deeply competitive — and, for many, a deeply unequal — process for high school students.
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The federal case brought this week against 50 people, including CEOs and Hollywood stars, suggest that some rich and powerful families use their wealth to illegally subvert the process and gain an advantage.