Anecdotal Evidence and Admissions

Anecdotes and Admissions, Admissions and Anecdotal Evidence, Anecdotal Evidence in College Admissions Process

Ignore the anecdotal evidence when it comes to highly selective college admissions. It can be highly misleading (photo credit: Andrew Chen).

Sometimes, a student doesn’t have a chance on G-d’s green earth of earning admission to a particular school. A ‘C’ student with that perfect SAT score and nothing special extracurriculars? No, he’s not getting into Harvard. Yes, we’re well aware of his SAT score. He still doesn’t have a chance on G-d’s green earth of getting in. Remember, Harvard can fill a whole class of students with perfect SAT scores who end up in the rejection pile. And many of those students also have perfect or near-perfect grades.

We are not shy about sharing our opinion, as you may have noticed from reading our college admissions blog over the years, even if what we say isn’t always popular. A writer in “The Dartmouth,” the newspaper of Dartmouth College, wrote, “Way to tell it like it is, Ivy Coach!” It’s why that quote is at the top of our college admissions blog. Because we will always tell it like it is. Even if it leads to some hurt feelings.

Anecdotal evidence is often the exception to the rule, not the rule. The same holds true in highly selective college admissions.

Parents (and it almost always is parents) will often follow up the truth we present with something like this: “But there was a student in Sammy’s school who also had bad grades and didn’t have a perfect SAT score and he got into Harvard. Why can’t Sammy?” And, yes, this is absolute nonsense. It’s anecdotal evidence that can be ripped apart with just a few questions. “And have you seen this student’s transcript? How do we know his grades were really as low as Sammy’s?” Or “Was he a legacy at Harvard? A double legacy? The child of a donor?” “What was this person’s ethnicity?” “Was he the first in his family to go to college?” All of these are unknowns. And, at the end of the day, Sammy still isn’t getting into Harvard. Sorry Sammy.

Just so it’s reinforced…don’t rely on anecdotal evidence when formulating a plan in highly selective college admissions!


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