Numbers matter in college admissions. Any suggestion otherwise simply isn’t correct.
It never ceases to amaze us when the parents of students with, say, a 630 reading and 620 math on the SAT believe their child has a shot of getting into Harvard. It’s not worth wasting your breath asking, “Why Harvard?” And that’s because Harvard is one of (if not the) most prestigious schools in America. We get that. We do. But unless this student has a remarkable story or a truly special case (e.g., maybe they grew up homeless — we’re not kidding as we’ve helped homeless students get into Harvard, they’re the child of a major donor to the university, they’re a football recruit, etc.), the odds of getting into Harvard with these scores aren’t so hot. After all, it’s Harvard.
We help students each and every year who have neither perfect grades nor perfect scores earn admission to some of America’s most elite universities, including Harvard. But we can’t make the impossible dream come true (although every now and then we do and, as our readers know well, it’s most often at Stanford). And, ultimately, numbers do matter in college admissions. They matter a whole lot. Does that mean students with perfect grades and perfect test scores will usually get into schools like Harvard? No. Schools like Harvard are openly prideful about the number of students they deny admission with perfect grades and perfect test scores. Perhaps the tagline of the Harvard admissions office should be: Rejecting 3,000 valedictorians annually since 1980. And, yes, we made that data up for kicks.
But there’s another company with a famous tagline that we’d like to refer to now — Nike. Its founder, Phil Knight, wrote in his book “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike,” “Running track gives you a fierce respect for numbers, because you are what your numbers say you are, nothing more, nothing less. If I posted a bad time in a race, there might have been reasons — injury, fatigue, broken heart — but no one cared. My numbers, in the end, were all that anyone would remember.” And while numbers aren’t the be all and end all in highly selective college admissions, they do matter and they matter big time. Phil’s right.