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The Ivy Coach Daily

November 3, 2020

College Applicants Want the Truth

In our experience, college applicants don’t like sugarcoating. Sugarcoating doesn’t serve anyone. Rather, they want the truth (photo credit: Alfred Hutter).

There’s lots of misinformation out there about the college admissions process. This is particularly the case this admissions cycle as admissions officers, high school counselors, private college counselors, and baristas at your local coffee shop spread misconceptions about, say, “test-optional” policies at our nation’s elite universities. Today, we figured we’d zero in on a case in point. In a piece for The Harvard Crimson by Benjamin L. Fu entitled “‘More Stressful than Ever’: Pandemic-Era Admissions Worry Harvard Applicants and College Admissions Counselors,” Fu quotes a private college counselor off his rocker: “Zak M. Harris, a former director of admission at Regis College who now works with consulting group InGenius Prep, said students and their families should not see testing as an ‘end-all, be-all.’ ‘When I was advocating for students, it never came down to, well, this kid has a 1540, and this kid has like a 1480,’ Harris said of his time in admissions. ‘The decisions that are being made are about people, community, personality fit.'”

College Counselor Makes Misleading Statement on SAT Scores

Mr. Harris’ quote is, of course, entirely misleading. For starters, how many students applied to Regis College, a university with an acceptance rate of approximately 78%, with a 1480 SAT much less a 1540 SAT during Mr. Harris’ time in admissions there? We’ll let our readers answer that one (full disclosure: we had to look up Regis College as it only sounded vaguely familiar). Our guess? Not too many. Students with great SAT scores generally don’t apply to schools that admit the vast majority of applicants. Rather, these students generally apply to selective or highly selective universities where they compete against other applicants with similar scores.

Of Course Top Colleges Don’t Admit Students Based on Grades and Scores Alone

It should also be noted that of course our nation’s highly selective colleges are not admitting students based on their SAT or ACT scores alone. The admissions process has long been a holistic process — one that takes into account a lot more about an applicant than his or her grades and test scores. But that doesn’t mean scores don’t matter. It doesn’t mean grades don’t matter. These remain hugely important factors at our nation’s highly selective colleges — even though the vast majority have gone “test-optional.” To suggest that a 60-point difference on an SAT doesn’t matter at, say, Princeton University is just plain false.

College Applicants Don’t Need Sugarcoating

In fact, it’s misleading statements like these that only make the highly selective college admissions process more stressful for all. When a patient goes to a doctor, the patient wants to know the actual diagnosis. The patient doesn’t want a fake diagnosis that will temporarily make him or her feel better. Sugarcoating is not the answer. The same is true for students navigating the churning waters of highly selective college admissions. These students — and their parents — want the truth: the cold, hard truth. And nothing but the truth.

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