Some of you might read the headline of this post and think “Forget spicing up my life! I just want to get in somewhere…anywhere!” Others might think, “Rules are for fools. Harvard’s my fallback.” For the duration of this post, we encourage you to set aside your fears, your ego, and relax your mind. In fact, conventional wisdom would lead us to believe that applications, like harmonies, are nicer when diversified. Au contraire, mon frère. Adding more reach schools to your list ensures nothing. Fun, right? Okay, so what’s the point of even trying if applying to more reach schools doesn’t mean you have a shot at getting into any of them? We’ve come up with a simple guidebook on how to hedge your bets. So, here’s the story from A to Z:
We get a lot of questions about applying early vs. regular decision and the merits of applying to schools for each round. One point that we always drive home is that applying somewhere early is not a small decision, and it should be intentional. This is not the time to throw all caution to the wind and apply to your dream school despite the fact that your test scores are well below their average and you sat around by the beach this past summer with nothing to show for it. That’s just silly, and that’s not how we operate. You need to know the why behind applying somewhere early, and you should have the profile as well as demonstrated interest to back it up. Sometimes applying early can help your chances of getting in and sometimes it can hurt them. Read on to find out the why and how.
Getting accepted to Yale would be the achievement of a lifetime for not only any student in the world, but any valedictorian in the world. There are 33,000 high schools in America, which means there are 33,000 valedictorians every year. As impressive on paper as these students are, most of them would not get accepted to Yale. After all, with an average class size of only 1,200 students, Yale could reject 31,800 valedictorians and still fill their entire freshman class with the top students in their respective high schools. The students we work with who have gained admission to Yale would all tell you the same thing: Grades matter, but they are only a fraction of the picture.
“If I apply to eleven schools, chances are I’ll get into one of them!” says almost everyone applying to college. If you’re talking about eleven reach schools, you’re probably wrong.
DO: Consider all of your options. It’s common to overlook schools when considering where to apply ED because you feel the pressure of only being able to choose one school. When you’re considering applying ED, be sure to actually imagine yourself at the school because your potential admission is binding.
Frank Bruni recently wrote a satirical piece about Stanford having a 0% acceptance rate. Although Stanford received many qualified applications, Bruni wrote that none of them fully impressed the admission staff. With no “Olympic gold medalists” in the applicant pool, Bruni sarcastically comments that they’re hoping for better applicants next year. Although this article acts as a commentary on how outrageous the college process has become, we received many emails from concerned parents asking how this was possible. Since the college process has grown so competitive, people actually thought it was possible for Stanford to accept zero people. To make matters worse, the most recent acceptance rates have hit historical lows across the board. These decreasing acceptance rates have become exponential in the past years. With this insight, it makes us wonder how these statistics are formed. The reality of college acceptance rates is that they are incredibly inflated.
Most people don’t remember when they learned about Harvard for the first time. Harvard looks and feels like “college.” With its red brick buildings and green quad, Harvard the movie magic, picture perfect image of a college. No matter who you are or what your various connections to the school may be, Harvard is a reach for almost everyone. A reach school is a school where a student falls towards the lower end of the indicated range, or any school that admits less than 20% of applicants who apply. Reach schools are incredibly well known and sought after—think Ivy League+ schools. In order to get in, you need something special. We can’t give you an exact formula for getting into Harvard, but we have developed unique strategies for helping students get to their reach schools.
When you apply to a school Early Decision you are making an unbreakable commitment. You’re telling the school, “you’re my first choice and if I get in I promise to attend.” There’s basically no caveats, exemptions, or options. If you apply to a school Early Decision and you get in, you’re going. If this sounds a little scary, that’s because it should be. Choosing to apply early is a big decision with ramifications for you long beyond the college process. It’s vital to thoroughly weigh the pros and cons. Early decision isn’t for everyone, and often times when students apply ED for the wrong reasons the college process can become even more stressful.
Once you’ve been accepted to multiple schools the most fun part of the college process begins. You get the chance to imagine yourself as an incoming freshman and decide why you’d want to go there more than the other schools you were admitted to. If you’ve gotten into your dream-reach school and a few safeties, the choice can be easy. But often you’re choosing between a couple of great options, and it can be more than a little terrifying to definitively pick one.
Let’s say you have a dream school. A school you’ve been dying to attend since you were a little kid. You’ve imagined yourself walking around, attending lectures with its most esteemed professors, and cheering on its teams. Your mind is set.
The college admissions process is a daunting undertaking. For you students it will require an insane amount of your time, effort, and focus. But you’re probably sick of hearing this. You’ve had this drummed into your heads by college counselors, teachers, and your parents. As consulting professionals (aka people who help get into college for a living) what we want to do is help you identify the five most common mistakes students like you make during the college admissions process. If you learn from these mistakes the whole process will undoubtedly go much smoother and you’ll have a much better chance of ending up at the school of your dreams.