Or better known as how graduate admissions committees work.
I am serving on the Graduate Admissions committee this year in hopes of recruiting some fresh blood to my lab. I have found that the Admissions committee works very fluidly without real mathematical statistics for selecting candidates, as I previously thought. Instead, we have big stacks of paper copies of applications. We sift through them one by one and mark which ones we like. In the shuffle, papers get lost, files become de-alphabetized, and people's transcripts become mixed up. Its best to be the first one to attack the files. If you're the last, you're looking at a big disorganized mess. After about a week of sifting through the applications, we email our list of top picks around and see which candidates' names keep popping up. From there, we rank the 'popular' students and submit them for acceptance.
What makes me put a student on my top list? Grades, GRE scores, undergraduate school, recommendation letters from other people I know, publications... I hardly ever read their personal statement because they are all SO bad. 90% start with some stupid inspirational quote, and this is honestly not the time for me to be inspired. I get a little mad when people write generally about why they want to go to my school. They should be listing specific areas that we are good at, or specific faculty that make them interested. The last thing I want to read is "I like [insert name of wrong university] because it has top professors." Maybe I should forward your app to [wrong university] since you obviously wasted your admission fee on us?