Is it random? College Admissions Mania

 An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, by Frank Bruni, provides a great case study for students & parents about to make their own college list

First let me begin by saying I agree with Author Frank Bruni, a students success is certainly not determined by where they attend college. However I believe a better antidote to the current “admissions mania” is simply parents and students need to view the process more objectively. Jenna, a student in Bruins book, provides a perfect opportunity to analyze her college list as a case study of what NOT to do when you make yours.

Jenna,  was surprised by admissions rejections she received from some very elite colleges; even though her test scores were notably below the 25th percentile for those schools. Her list was almost entirely comprised of schools that should have been considered “reach” schools for Jenna, and very unlikely to offer her acceptance.

To build a solid college list, you should include a broader range of colleges with a healthy mix of selectivity. Your list should “embrace the numbers”, because we know that most colleges reward a high GPA and test scores favorably in admission. Do not plan on being the exception. Your GPA and test scores need to be competitive for colleges on your list for you to be competitive for admission. You need to do research to see what the 25th-75th percentile scores look like. If you are in the 75th percentile range for GPA and test scores you have a better chance of admission at any school.

Admissions are not really that random despite what you hear.

In Brunis book, how could “Jenna” have improved her college list?

  1. By adding a school where her SAT test scores were in the 75th percentile.
  2. By adding a school with a higher admit rate; the highest admit rate on her list was still very selective at 35%
  3. By adding a school where she had a resident advantage; some schools favor in-state while others favor out-of-state.

Jenna could have predicted her admissions chances better if she understood

  • Her Math SAT scores (low 600’s) were below the 25th percentile for most of her list.
  • The University of Virginia has a lower admit rate for Out-of-State students.
  • Pomona 12% and Georgetown 17% are NOT backup schools for anyone.
  • GPA and test scores weigh far more than extra-curriculars.
  • 100 hours of community service is not very much.

It’s great to include a few “reach” schools on your list if you understand they are a reach. A “target school” or “match” is a school where your test scores, GPA, and residence fall perfectly inline with current admitted student profiles or even closer to the 75th percentile while also considering admission rate.

college admissions mania
This is Jennas list of schools; I highlighted the selectivity, test scores and residency sections that all worked against her chance of admission.