It is hard to judge where a student stands because top colleges send We Want You messages even knowing full well they will only admit some of the students they encourage to apply.
This is an unusual buyer (student) seller (college) relationship.
What Would Wal-Mart Do If it Behaved Like a Top College?
Wal-Mart would mount an extensive advertising campaign that included:
Print ads (college catalog)
Internet ads (college Web site)
Send salesmen on the road (admission staff)
Invite potential buyers to tour the store (campus visits)
Have previous buyers seek out new customers (alumni recruiters)
Mount a large direct mail campaign (search lists)
Use techniques to get a better product review in Consumer Reports-style publications (U.S. News ratings)
Wal-Mart’s outreach methods succeed at generating a very high demand for its product.
It turns out that all along Wal-Mart only had enough product to sell to 1/3 of potential buyers.
Not only that, but Wal-Mart will decide who will be allowed to make a purchase. Roles are reversed. Wal-Mart becomes the buyer. The customer must now submit an application to “sell himself.”
And Next …
Excited by all the Wal-Mart advertising, the potential customer wants to judge how he compares to others who are also interested in being selected, and asks,
“What criteria do you use to choose those who will be allowed to buy your product?”
At this point, Mr. Walton responds,
Welcome to the Admission Process at the Top Colleges
The current demand for a high quality college education results in the top schools becoming “selective.” They get to select who will be able to purchase their educational product.
If the student is striving to go to one of these colleges, it is important to understand this relationship between supply and demand.
Supply and Demand
Supply is steady.
While there are many more students seeking to attend college, the number of openings has remained about the same.
Demand is growing overall.
The number of high school grads has never been higher.
Now exceeds 3,000,000
The percent going to college is increasing.
From 45% to nearly 60% since 1980’s
The increase in demand is greatest for students wanting to attend a “good school.”
Yet, of 2000 4-year colleges, only about 500 select fewer than 3 of 4 applicants.
Perhaps this is the problem:
“It’s hard for kids to get into colleges because they only want to go to colleges that are hard to get into.”
What to Do
When you are among a great many who want to purchase the education of a top college, it pays to know its selection standards.
This knowledge can help in 2 ways:
It can help you prepare, both inside and outside the classroom, to meet those standards
It can help you make a realistic college list
Life Isn’t Easy in Admissions
While admission offices make it hard on themselves because of their drive to generate more applications, it does create a problem.
There are more and more students to evaluate, but it is increasingly hard to choose among them.
There is academic “Bunching”
Increased enrollment in hard courses
Honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate
College courses in high school, summer enrichment
Distinctions are blurred
Grade inflation (3.4 average h.s. GPA)
Multiple valedictorians, other honors
SAT recentering, take the highest score, subject tests, ACT strategy
Test prep courses
There is personal “Polishing”
Students are more savvy about building a resume with activities and accomplishments, strategizing the essay, using summer for extra college prep
High schools feel the pressure -- reluctant to lessen student chances – inflation in teacher and counselor recs
To Complicate Matters Further ..
College admission offices have a split personality
They are a meritocracy
Admit the best
They also practice “institutional engineering”
Admit to meet other objectives
The result is not one, but two admissions processes at top colleges
One for “regular” applicants
One for “special” applicants
This is where confusion increases and predictability decreases.
What To Do
The most common reason a good student does not get admitted to a top college is that he is in the Regular category and doesn’t realize the admission standards for him are well above the published averages.
In fact, there may not be that many average admits.
A public university – 700 SAT out-of-state, 500 SAT in-state
In making college list, and estimating chances, important to know if you are a Regular or Special .
The 4 most common Special categories are:
Listed athlete (+30%)
Underrepresented minority (where not restricted by legislation) (+28%)
Early applicant (+20%)
One that is growing in popularity:
Disadvantaged, low income, first generation college
Other Special Categories
These tend to vary a great deal by institution.
Special institutional need – female engineer, cello player, Latin scholar
Donors and other forms of service
Misc – president and trustee lists, faculty child, etc
Recruited Division I Athletes
Affirmative action minorities (depending)
State residents for publics
Low income, disadvantaged background (may be level II)
Special institutional needs not formal – classics, dancer, tuba
Donors, President’s list (may be level II)
Other: sib enrolled, full pay
Minority -- find out if they give a preference
Legacy -- apply to college parents attended (Check grad school, grandparents, service)
Athlete – apply to colleges where you will be listed by coach
Apply early – E.D., E.A.
Disadvantaged – ask admission rep
College List Making Advice
Regular – compare yourself to the top 75% of the academic profile
Minority: 25 th - 50 th percentile
Listed athlete: the coach will tell you what your chances are. Div I and II scholarship athletes have minimum standards.
Legacy and E.D.: 40 th - 50 th percentile
An Admission Exercise
Top colleges rate applicants on academic and personal scales.
Because they have to sort through so many apps, they use a number system.
Assume you are an admission officer and you are rating your student.
This system is 1 (low) to 8 (high) on both academic and personal.
ACADEMIC RATING TABLE None None None School County State Region Intern/ National Acad Awards Courses ACT SAT Rank GPA Average 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 C- C C+ B/B- B+ A- A A+ 2.0-2.3 2.4-2.8 2.5-3.0 3.1-3.4 3.5-3.6 3.7-3.8 3.9 4.0 up Top 1/2 33% 25% 20% 10-15% 6-9% 3-5% 1-2% 400-470 480-540 550-590 600-640 650-670 680-700 710-740 750-800 16-19 20-22 23-25 26-28 29-30 31-32 33-34 35-36 Routine Some Pre-Coll All Pre-College Honors 1,2 AP Honors 3 AP 4 AP IB or All AP
The personal rating assigned to an applicant is based on a combination of attributes in different areas. They typically include:
Leadership/positions of responsibility
How you are revealed in the application
Service to others
Personal attributes primarily come from school and teacher reports and required interviews. The categories are:
Respect accorded by faculty, class participation, academic achievement, intellectual promise, writing quality, creativity, work habits, maturity, motivation, leadership, integrity, reaction to setbacks, concern for others, self-confidence, initiative, and independence
PERSONAL RATINGS Achievement/Talent/Leadership: None Personal Characteristics: Some questions Essay: negative impression Service/Obstacles: none/ none 1 Achievement/Talent/Leadership: Nothing stands out Personal Characteristics: Below average Essay: doesn’t add anything Service/Obstacles: none/ none 2 Achievement/Talent/Leadership: Average class/minor talent/ minor roles at best Personal Characteristics: Average Essay: fair Service/Obstacles: Only what’s required/ none 3 Achievement/Talent/Leadership: Minor school, good class/ typical talent/ occasional leader Personal Characteristics: Good Essay: typical Service/Obstacles: Typical contribution/ none 4 Achievement/Talent/Leadership: Major school/ above average talent/ solid leader Personal Characteristics: Very good Essay: adds to application Service/Obstacles: Well meaning contribution/ none 5 Achievement/Talent/Leadership: County, league-wide/ strong talent/ admirable leadership qualities Personal Characteristics: Excellent. Top 10% Essay: impresses reader Service/Obstacles: Well beyond typical service/ some obstacles 6 Achievement/Talent/Leadership: Regional, state/ unusual talent/ very strong leader Personal Characteristics: Outstanding, top 5% Essay: passed around admission office Service/Obstacles: Significant role in important service/ quite difficult road 7 Achievement/Talent/Leadership: International, national/ rare talent/ extraordinary leader Personal Characteristics: ”One of few in career.” Essay: will appear in “How to Write Essays” book Service/Obstacles: Extraordinary contribution, major effect/ overcame severe obstacles 8