Ivy Coach Challenges Student Whose Admissions Garnered Press Attention to Debate

20 College Apps, Applying to 20 Schools, 20 University Applications

Should a student admitted Early Action to Stanford apply to several other schools in the Regular Decision round? Photo credit: King of Hearts.

Should a high school student be allowed to submit 20 or more college applications? Our answer is absolutely yes, provided the student isn’t admitted through a binding Early Decision program. The Common Application allows students to submit a maximum of 20 applications and if the student also happens to apply to schools outside of the Common App. (e.g., if the school has its own application like at MIT or Georgetown), then a student has the right to apply to even more than 20 schools (with the Early Decision caveat). But as we discussed on a recent post about a student whose admissions to Harvard and Stanford, among other schools, were the subject of major press attention, if a student is admitted to Harvard or Stanford in the Early Action round, we believe it isn’t right for that student to apply to 19 other schools — or any schools for that matter that they wouldn’t choose to attend over Harvard or Stanford. If you’re admitted to Stanford in the Early Action round and you want to apply to Harvard in the Regular Decision round, we get it. But Cornell, Northwestern, Pomona? Sorry, we just don’t get it. While we may be wrong, it has the appearance that the student would only be applying to such schools so as to accrue feathers for their cap. We at Ivy Coach stand wholeheartedly against an ego-based admissions process.

Ivy Coach Challenges Micheal Brown, Student Whose Admissions Garnered Major Press Attention, to a Debate

In our post about the student whose admissions garnered major press attention, Micheal Brown, we wrote that he sounds like a truly impressive young man and we congratulated him on his admissions to schools like Harvard and Stanford. We stand by that. He seems to us like a very nice young man with a good heart and a great head on his shoulders. But unlike the profiles of Brown in “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” “CNN,” “Texas Monthly,” “USA Today,” and a host of other major news publications, we did raise our hand to question why he would choose to apply to schools he would unlikely ever attend after achieving his dream of earning admission to Stanford in the Early Action round. His mother asserts in the press that Stanford has “been his top choice for so long.” So why did he apply to so many other schools? Well, Micheal has answered, by posting comments on our college admissions blog.

Micheal wrote the following comments below. We have not corrected any typos or grammatical errors.

“Ivy Coach.

I just have to beg to differ. Coincidentally– this is Micheal Brown– and I’m a long time reader of Ivy Coach, which I still think is the best blog online. I’d like to say, I really don’t need any congragulations from you all.

The decision to apply to 20 schools has many factors, including figuring out financial aid, big verus small schools, the type of environment that I wanted– and you likely didn’t know, which debate coach would give me a spot on the team because that’s one of my non-negotiables. And so that you may be informed on your analsis of my applying to schoolas after getting into Stanford, I had aleady submitted application to 14 schools (8 of which that school an early deadline like EA, honors programs, and scholarship deadlines) before I’d gotten my decision from Stanford, so I only had 6 schools (the Ivys plus Northwestern and Georgetown). I wasn’t going to withdraw apps because I’d put in the hard work for my apps, and I still applied for more reaches because I wasn’t totally sold on Stanford, (and I’m still not). And additionally, as a QB student seeking financial aid, it was important for me to be able to balance many offers to get the best price.

Micheal Brown

PS: On the point of Stanford over Pomona, a friend of mine actually chose Pomona over Stanford last year, and loves his choice.
PSS: The asseterion that I “took slots away from other deserving candidates” implies that students applying to top schools are entitled to recieve admissions; we both know that this assertion isn’t true. Like with the 16 school that I’ve told I won’t attend, they admitted more students than I intend to enrolll. we both know that schools have formulas to estimate yield– with students like me in mind. And if there is space left, students will still get in off the waitlist.
PSSS: Period, my volume of applications in no way harm another individual.
PSSSS: For many of your rich students, additonal acceptances may be adding feathers to their hat, but for me, its about seeking the most inviting environment for a first gen student at a price that my mom can afford.

Also– I’d like to note that any media appearance has only been to share my story to inspire other low-income, first-gen, students of color, etc. who also want to pursue their dreams and have options– despite living in a society that has chosen everything in life for them. Regardless of what any one has to say, my story cannot be unwritten and all of the kids who have reached out to me cannot be uninspired.

-M Brown”

A Student Who Loves to Debate is Hereby Challenged to a Debate

Micheal, we disagree with so many of your assertions. For starters, even if you had submitted applications to 14 schools before you received your decision from Stanford, you absolutely could have withdrawn applications from schools that hadn’t yet rendered decisions after you received your acceptance from Stanford. Our students at Ivy Coach do this all the time — and we rarely have to tell them to do so. They do so on their own. But even if you did apply to 14 schools before receiving your decision from Stanford, why did you choose to apply to several other schools after receiving your admission? We just don’t buy it that you were truly considering all of these institutions. Writing that you “put in the hard work for [your] apps” is not justification for failing to withdraw your applications and it undercuts your argument that you applied to these schools only to stack one financial aid offer up against the next (which we can also debate). And, by the way,  you were indeed allowed to apply to all of these schools. You broke no rules. We just don’t think it was the right thing to do because, contrary to your comments, you certainly did take away slots from other students.

We’re going to save most of our responses to your arguments for a debate we hope to have with you. You mentioned you’re a debater. In your comment, you wrote that your college decision would be based on “which debate coach would give me a spot on the team because that’s one of my non-negotiables.” Well, let’s debate. We can have the debate on a national morning show (we’re happy to set it up) or, if you’d prefer, we can host the debate, with video, right here on our college admissions blog. Just let us know. The choice is yours.

Finally, you mentioned that you didn’t take slots away from other deserving students at the schools you won’t be attending. That’s false. You sure did take away slots from other deserving candidates by applying to schools you didn’t seemingly have any intention of attending. Think about it like this. An oboist competes against an oboist for a slot. A 100 backstroker competes against a 100 backstroker for a swim coach’s slot. A gifted debater like yourself competes against a gifted debater for a slot.

You mentioned that you wanted your story to be told in the hope it would inspire other underrepresented minority young people from low-income families. We absolutely get that and that is commendable. Such stories are deserving of being told. But when you applied to so many schools that we don’t believe you had any intention of attending, you took away slots from other students, including other QuestBridge students, other low-income, underrepresented minority students. While that may very well not have been your intention (we’re sure it wasn’t!), it’s the impact of your decision-making. And that’s something we don’t find particularly inspiring. Indeed we hope other students going forward will not follow this particular example of yours. It doesn’t mean you’re not a great student. We’re sure you are. It doesn’t mean you’re not a person of great moral character. We’re sure you are. It just means we believe you made a bad decision. We all make bad decisions from time to time. Your bad decision just happened to be lauded by the world press.

But you have every right to defend yourself against our criticism. You have every right to criticize us too (e.g., your criticism that we help the wealthy earn admission to highly selective colleges — which we’re happy to address). We wish to give you that opportunity. Micheal, do you accept our challenge to a debate?


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  • Micheal Brown says:

    I am not going to go back and forth with grown people who don’t even take the time to get to know me. Ok, let me set you all straight– I’ll explain to you why I have an issue with your article. The fact that you make the assumption that I was “adding feathers to my hat” just ignores so many things.

    1) I wasn’t admitted to all 8 Ivies; I don’t know who said that. I applied to every single one of my schools with intent after hours of research. In my research I decided that I didn’t like Cornell, so I didn’t apply to Cornell. In fact, I decided that I didn’t like Columbia, Brown, or Derthmouth either. Each school that I applied to was intentional– I even had to submit a letter to my counselor explaining why I chose to apply to every school that I applied to. If I wanted an Ivy sweep– now looking back, I could’ve applied to all the Ivies– but I knew that I wouldn’t go to any of them. That was not my goal– the goal was always to find the best fit regardless of the name.

    2) You say yourself, “Sorry, we just don’t get it.” And it’s ok that you don’t get it. You ask why I did not withdraw my applications– something you didn’t ask before making your presumptios articles. I’ll let you know (even though I don’t have to):
    First, I did not have to withdraw application, and I don’t have to justify this decision. There is no question of morality– because literally no one is harmd. The arguement that any Harvard or Stanford admit should not apply to any other school ignores the personal nature of choosing college– choosing where someone is investing the next your years of their lives. I deserve to have choices, especially as I am trying to figure out which type of college experience I wanted. The hundreds of Harvard and Stanford early admits who apply to multiple schools are extended the same right– just like anyone else in the process who is trying to make informed decision to go to the school with the best fit.
    Second, I put in the work for my applications– this is an undeniable fact; the decision to apply to so many schools is not one that I took likely, and I was also actively considering and applying to honors and special programs at schools.
    Third, because I had to submit non-custodial parent waivers for my financial aid– I had to worry to about the financial decision more than the admissions decision. You all may ot may not know about the waiver process, but that process is just as topsy-turvy as admissions.
    Fourth- Debate.
    Fifth- The only schools that I applied to after getting in early were the Ivys plus Georgetown and Northwestern– schools that are comprable to Stanford and all have more emphasis on Social Science and Humanities– something that I discovered after applying to Stanford. And many of the schools that I applied to before remained on my radar due to their balance of STEM VS Humanities. You don’t have to udnerstand why or even accept my explination.

    3) Taking spots away– this is just a ridiculous arguement. First of all, for every school that gave me early admission (and that I was sure of about wanting to go), I replied that I did not want to go before rgular decisions went out. Let’s actuall analyze the impacts of my future decisions: withdrawing from an offer of admission has the same effect as rejecting an offer of admission. Someone else gets in (unless the college acheives their desired yield). So there is literally no impact coming from any of your arguments– period.
    Let me give an example. If one of my friends in QB was was waitlisted at UPenn, my choosing to go to another school might open the spot up for him; and even if he was rejected at UPenn, my application had nothing to do with that and another student will get in.

    On you all helping rich students– this isn’t really even an argument. That comment was a response to the verbage, “taking away a spot,” which implies that other students are entitled to other spots.
    Micheal Brown

    PS: As a 17 year old making the biggest decision of my life, I do not have the time to continue this conversation. Both sides have shared their argument. I will not be going anywhere to debate any one as I am travelling to make an informed decision about college, and because I am studying for IB exams.

  • Micheal Brown says:

    Actually, I will actually accept the offer to debate. Online debate on Sunday night at 7 pm central. Email me if you’re interested.
    Ivy Coach- 5 minute speech
    5 minutes of crossfire (asking questions)
    Micheal- 5 minute speech
    5 minutes of crossfire
    5 minutes of crossfire
    Ivy Coach- 5 minute closing speech
    Micheal- 5 minute closing speech

  • Micheal Brown says:

    On third thought– in line with my first thought– I will not dignify the derogatory post about a minor. I should not have responded and am not moved by any attempts to excite me. I showed my age (17) to respond to you all but any one using their paltform to degrade a child is also showing negative traits. Stanford has non-binding early action for a reason, and you are free to apply to as many schools as you want to. That’s it. This is the way the system works, and asking students to do anything different makes Ivy Coach more vulnerable to failure. Plus, I’m not taking any spots from anyone. Colleges routinely accept more people that they have room for because they know a lot of students won’t accept their offer, and they also waitlist people in case spots open up. The previous posts have been sensationalistic and honestly blind to the intricacies of the admissions process. I won’t allow a big business to skew the facts, and I won’t allow you all to manipulate this situation. I won’t further engage, and I’ll be better for it.

    • Micheal Brown says:

      It really and truly benefits you all to reduce the number of talented students who are trying to get the best choices for themselves. By reducing the number of accomplished students applying to top schools, you get to get more choices for your clients– this is the most likely motivation for skewing the story. Finally, I can only got to one school, so that is only one spot– that cannot be refuted.

      • Ivy Coach says:

        Micheal, you’re now commenting on our blog in a way similar to how our President tweets.

        If you’d like to have a debate with us, we can arrange for one next week at a time that is mutually convenient.

    • outside observer says:

      Actually you could be taking spots away from other people so to speak. Even if you decline the offer at Cornell for example, Cornell might reach their desired class size and not accept a candidate that could have gotten in if you (and other applicants like you) had not applied to begin with.

      You got every right to apply to as many schools as you can, but it is not a reasonable argument to say that you genuinely consider all 20 of them equally. I would get it if it was 4-5 of them, but not 20 of them. Are you honestly considering Stanford/Harvard and Cornell equally? When it comes to your choosing another school over Stanford, history of similar applicants as you shows that the chances of that school being anything else other than Harvard ( and Yale, Princeton too), is practically nil.

      HYPS also offer the most generous need-based financial aid. You are not gonna get a better need-based financial aid offer from places like Penn, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Northwestern etc. As a low-income student you will not even get a better offer with merit money at state schools than what you would get at HYPS.

      It would be nice for students fortunate enough to get the tippy top choices to be a bit more considerate with their college applications. There is no obligation to do this, of course, but I think it is the right thing to do.

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