International Students

College Applications – The Inside Story

by Jerry Larson
The competition to get into the highest ranked colleges & universities in America has become increasingly fierce in recent years. Sometimes it starts as early as nursery school when parents will call Ivy league admissions offices asking for advice about the best nursery schools to prepare for admission. As high school graduation nears more and more parents are paying college admission consultants thousands of dollars for their assistance in helping their child fill out college applications and write college admission essays. Whether or not this really helps is debatable but it certainly happens.
Don’t be discouraged. While there are a few dozen elite schools flooded with applications from highly qualified high school seniors, the fact of the matter is that most of the 2,200 four year colleges and universities in America are still in competition with each other to attract qualified applicants. The majority of schools actually accept more than two-thirds of the applicant pool and hundreds of other colleges and universities grant admission to virtually any student with the high school diploma. Some of these institutions are “diamonds in the rough” with superb academic programs and excellent track records based on the accomplishments of past graduates.
Now you know the “dirty little secret” most colleges and universities hope you never discover. They’ll send you letters in the mail putting up a front about how selective they are in the admissions process, but when you take a step back and look at the actual statistics you’ll see that only a few dozen institutions are actually so selective that less than 25% of the annual applicant pool is granted admission.
So the good news is it’s not nearly as difficult to gain admission to highly-ranked institution offerings quality educations. But on the flip side if your intent is to attend one of the few dozen institutions that is extremely selective, your chances are actually decreasing. In the past decade applications to schools such as Duke, Notre Dame, Stanford, Northwestern and any of the Ivy league schools have risen dramatically making an extremely competitive admissions process even more difficult. For example Harvard University’s admissions office received over 9,400 applications from high school seniors with SAT scores higher than 1400 & fewer than 2,000 of these highly qualified applicants received acceptance letters in their mailboxes.
There’s no need to lower your expectations concerning which college or university to attend – the Ivy schools have not stopped admitting freshman classes, it has only become more difficult to be accepted. A good plan might be to make an honest assessment of your qualifications and if they truly warrant strong consideration you should absolutely complete your application and send it in prior to the deadline. But don’t put all your eggs in one basket or you may be setting yourself up for a major disappointment. Just in case things don’t work out at one of the elite schools you should apply to one or more other schools where your admission is more certain to be accepted. There are plenty of great colleges and universities from which to choose.
Jerry Larson is a former college admissions officer who knows the ropes and is now helping college applicants get an “insiders perspective” on the college admission process. Are you making these common mistakes that kill your chances of admission into the college or university of your choice?