Getting real about super-selective colleges
My guest is college admissions consultant Bruce Vinik, president of Vinik Educational Placement Services, Inc., in Cabin John, Md.
By Bruce Vinik
“I don’t understand why my son didn’t get into Yale. He had straight A’s, took sixteen AP courses, scored 2500 on the SAT, was captain of the baseball team and president of the student body, and developed a new drug that will eradicate gout.”
I typically don’t focus on the most selective colleges, but this comment from an exasperated and totally fictional parent got me thinking about the world of competitive admissions.
When I began my career in college counseling in the early 1990’s, I (like most of my colleagues) could predict admissions decisions with great accuracy, even at the most competitive schools. I might not have been 100% accurate, but I was close.
I can tell which applicants are qualified to be admitted, but I can’t tell who these schools are actually going to take. The fact is that there are too many extraordinarily qualified applicants chasing a limited number of spaces at the most selective colleges.
When we hear about all the wonderful kids with outstanding grades and test scores and activities who are turned down (more than 90% of applicants at some colleges), it’s easy to conclude that admissions decisions are essentially random. But I can assure you that they are not.
Dedicated admissions officers do everything they can to give each applicant a fair hearing as they try to build their freshman classes. They study transcripts and read essays and consider the talents and skills that individuals have to offer. They consider the different institutional needs that their colleges have. And in the end, they make their decisions for reasons that may not be obvious to those of us on the outside.
The most selective colleges can admit only a very small percentage of their applicant pool. As a result, all sorts of outstanding candidates are turned away.
As high school juniors begin to focus on the college admissions process, they and their parents must come to grips with the difficulty of gaining entrance to the most competitive colleges. While students do, in fact, get into these schools (except for Yale where I am convinced that next year’s entering class will contain “zero” students), there is simply no way that I can convey how tough it is to be admitted.
Even all A’s and a better-than-perfect score on the SAT may not be enough.
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| May 13, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: College Admissions | Tags: brown admissions, college admissions, columbia admissions, getting into harvard, getting into stanford, getting into the ivy league, harvard admissions, ivy league, selective colleges and applicants, who gets into harvard
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