This is the season in which countless juniors begin to “get real” about college planning. Their parents have begun the “conversation”, and by “conversation” I mean the relentless, anxiety-fueled hinting, prodding, and poking that will remain the mode of discourse until next May when decisions are FINALLY made. College counselors are sagely recommending courses for the senior year, the appropriate tests and the appropriate test dates. And juniors are caught between their unformed dreams and the increasing realization that the college process is about to get tricky.
For a considerable number of juniors, the choices are relatively obvious; the local university, college, or community college is the best and, perhaps, only option. For those whose ambitions take them into uncharted waters, however, there is a delicate balance between finding the most attractive school and researching the most reasonable chance of admission.
Look, there ARE special circumstances that affect college admission. Recruited athletes, significantly well connected legacies, disproportionally under-represented ethnicities, people with notable and specialized talents – these will be considered more gently than the general mass of applicants, but… for almost all of those applying, some fairly obvious indicators have to be considered.
Strength of preparation – to what degree has the student already given evidence of the ability to thrive in a particular college’s program of study.
Standardized testing – to what degree does the applicant give evidence of innate ability. SAT, ACT, Subject testing, and AP testing all provide some information by which colleges can make distinctions among applicants.
To cut to the chase, roughly 10% of all applicants are academically distinctive. Having taken advanced course work, these applicants have earned a weighted GPA close to 4.0. They will have demonstrated accomplishment and innate ability by earning scores of 700 or better on the component sub tests of the SAT (2100 total or better) and on subject tests offered by the College Board. they will present at least four AP scores of 4 or 5. They will have an ACT score of 32 or higher. Roughly 25% f this group will NOT win admission to the most selective colleges. If you are in this group, you have a 75% chance of being admitted
Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, MIT, Cal Tech, Brown, Dartmouth, U. Pennsylvania, Amherst, Pomona, Williams, Claremont-McKenna, Duke, Georgetown, Bowdoin, U. Chicago, Swarthmore:
The next 15% have taken some advanced course work, have earned AP credit, and have scored above 650 on the component sub tests of the SAT (1850 or better) and have a score of 30 or better on the ACT. Roughly 90% of these applicants will NOT win admission to the most selective colleges. Roughly 60% will NOT win admission to the next most highly selective colleges. If you are in this group and apply to one of the most selective colleges (above) you have about a 10% chance of winning admission. You have a 40% chance of being admitted to the colleges below:
Cornell, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Washington University (MO), Rice, Johns Hopkins, U Cal Berkeley, Harvey Mudd, Washington and Lee, USC, Wesleyan, Tufts, UCLA, Barnard, Vassar, Haverford, Davidson.
The next 10% are only slightly less accomplished (by virtue of grades and scores – SAT 1800/ ACT 28) than the top two groups and again, roughly 60% will NOT be admitted to the next tier of highly competitive colleges: If you are in this group, you have about a 2% chance of being admitted to the most selective, about a 30% chance of being admitted to the next most highly selective, and about a 40% chance of being admitted to the highly selective colleges below.
Bates, Hamilton, Colby, Kenyon, Oberlin, Bucknell, Boston College, Colgate, Wellesley, Emory, Macalester, Carleton, Whitman.
So what do you do if you want to keep your options open?
Take a look at the great colleges on this site!
America’s Best Kept College Secrets was written in order to identify the many excellent options available to students. You will find the most recent information about programs, extra-curricular opportunities, traditions, and admissions practices. These best kept secrets are not secret at all to those who know quality in post-secondary education; they are highly regarded, and their students consider themselves fortunate to have found them.