May 2007 Newsletter
Of all the accredited colleges and universities in the U.S., only about thirty-five of them are considered highly selective. This particular category is reserved for schools that typically admit less that one-third of all their applicants. To determine a college’s degree of selectivity, one needs to know the number of students who were admitted in the most recent class and divide that by the number of students who applied. The smaller the percentage of students admitted, the more highly selective the college. For example, for the Class of 2011, to form a freshmen class of 1,245 students, Princeton University received 18,942 applications and admitted 1,791 applicants, thus making their application-admit ratio 9.5%. However, as applicant pools (the number and quality of the applicants) change each year, so does the college’s degree of selectivity. For the Class of 2010, to form a freshman class of 1,220 students, Princeton admitted 1,792 of the 17,563 applicants who applied, thus making their admit ratio for that year 10.2%. For the Class of 2009, while the expected class size was the same as for the Class of 2010, Princeton admitted 1,807 of their 16,516 applicants. The admit-ratio for that year was 10.9%.
When competition is as keen as it is with these highly selective colleges, all factors play a role in the admissions process, but the two basic factors continue to be exceptional academic and personal accomplishments.
The best predictor of a student’s academic success at college is that student’s academic success in high school. Although along with grade point average and the intensity of high school courses (including honors and advanced placement classes) are rank or deciles and standardized test scores (SAT or ACT, Subject Tests, and AP Examinations). The competitiveness of the high school and the letters of recommendation from the guidance counselor and the teachers who know the student the best are also considered other highly significant academic factors. Nevertheless, all too frequently we hear stories of how valedictorians with perfect SAT scores may just not be special enough. When these students are denied admission it is often because their application (essays, personal statement, and letters of recommendation) makes them sound as if they have achieved a level of entitlement, and consequently they come across as pompous, arrogant and one-dimensional.
So, Who Makes the Case?
Through high school transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, essays and personal statements, activity sheets and personal interviews, students who have demonstrated intellectual curiosity, personal initiative, and those who have made an impact on their school and community will have a much greater advantage in the admissions process. Students need to be who they are, but they also need to work at making a difference!