Taking Admissions Slots Away from Other Applicants

Slots in Admissions, College Admissions Slots, Slots in Ivy League Admissions

These men seemed to enjoy feathers in their caps, too.

A few years ago, we had a student who didn’t earn admission in the Early Action round at Harvard. The student was deferred. But Ivy Coach, you had a student who was deferred? How could it be? Every now and then it happens — but it always works out in the end. You see, this student ended up earning admission to Harvard in the Regular Decision round after we helped the student submit a powerful Letter of Enthusiasm. The student also earned admission to each of the seven other Ivy League schools, Stanford, Duke, and a host of other highly selective universities. So the student we were most worried about that year — because it was our one student who didn’t earn admission to their dream school in the Early round — ended up with better news just a few months later. And we ultimately had to convince the student to choose to matriculate to Harvard over Stanford because dreams, well, they can change after a deferral.

A Student Admitted Early to Stanford Shouldn’t Be Applying to 19 Other Colleges

There is a piece in today’s “New York Times” by Matt Stevens entitled “20 Full Rides to Top Colleges: A Texas Student’s Perfect Sweep” that highlights the story of a student, Micheal Brown, who earned admission to 20 highly selective colleges. Way to go, Micheal! From the profiles we’ve read of Micheal in the press, he sounds like a truly impressive young man. But what these profiles fail to mention is that Micheal did something we would never allow our students to do — he took slots away from other students likely only so as to accrue more feathers for his cap.

You see, Micheal earned admission in the Early round to Stanford University. And students who are admitted to Stanford generally don’t end up attending Cornell, Northwestern, Georgetown, Pomona, Michigan, and other elite institutions that, well, just aren’t Stanford. And Micheal has been open about the fact that Stanford was his first choice. As Matt Stevens reports, “[Micheal’s mom] said she was pulling for her son to attend Stanford because it has been his top choice for so long or Harvard because she thinks it would be an even better fit.” So why oh why did Micheal feel the need to apply to the likes of these schools in the Regular Decision round when clearly he had no intention of matriculating? By doing so, Micheal only took slots away from other deserving candidates. That should not be applauded by the press. It should be condemned. Hey, we’ve never been told that we don’t tell it like it is.

Students Admitted to Stanford Won’t Consider Pomona

Sorry Pomona. We absolutely appreciate that a student admitted in the Early Action round to Stanford may wish to apply to Harvard in the Regular Decision round. And we are not against a student submitting applications to 20 colleges — not in the least — unless they earn admission to a school like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or Princeton in the Early Action round if they didn’t apply through a binding Early Decision program. A couple of years ago, we had a student admitted Early Action to Stanford who also wished to apply to UPenn. We questioned if the student would really attend UPenn if admitted but because the student was applying to Wharton, we said we understood. But we told this student we did not understand this student’s stated intent to apply to several other highly selective colleges. We told this student that submitting applications to these schools would only take slots away from other students and add feathers to his already super nice cap. The student ultimately listened to us and applied only to Harvard and UPenn (Wharton) in the Regular Decision round. The student ultimately attended…Stanford.

So congratulations to Micheal Brown on your admissions to Stanford and Harvard. But we will not congratulate you on any of your other admissions — because you should not have submitted applications to these schools. We will not now, not ever congratulate a student because they chose to add feathers to their cap at the expense of other students.


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  • JPC says:

    Can you fault Stanford as well? What is the logic of SCEA instead of simply ED? At least where schools seem fully capabable of meeting financial aid requirements, not using ED seems to tacitly encourage, or at least facilitate, feather-hunting.

  • SN says:

    No Congratulations to him for taking slots away from other deserving students.

    I personally know a student who got admitted to all 8 ivies, MIT, Stanford, Caltech, Vandy, Harvey Mudd, Duke, CMU, etc., but only after he was deferred from Harvard initially. When the media contacted him to publicize about his successful admission story, he refused to publicize his achievement, because he felt not happy but guilty that he unnecessarily took admissions away from other students and had Harvard given him admission initially, he would not have applied anywhere else.

  • AO says:

    Agreed. My son says he feels guilty whenever he receives acceptance letters from many top LAC colleges after he received a likely letter from one of his dream Ivy university. Many of them with a hand written warm message from admission officer. He says he should not have applied too many safety colleges, and very sad to read those welcome messages.

  • ivy mom says:

    I agree with this. My child was fortunate enough to get into Harvard early and then she wanted to also apply to Stanford, Yale and Princeton regular. We persuaded her to only apply to Stanford regular since realistically there was no chance she would choose Yale or Princeton over Harvard. Why waste time and energy and also steal spots from other people for no reason?

  • JCW says:

    Here’s the rest of the story that most people don’t stop and think about… Elite schools like to boast about the students they accept. You’ve read the press releases quoting statistics — they are eager to brag about the # of valedictorians they’ve accepted, the high average SATs, the wide geographic diversification of the group, the progress they’ve made toward racial diversity, the number of accepts that are first in their family to go to college, etc. Most people don’t realize that these are NOT the stats of the entering class. They are NOT who actually enrolls. The actual class stats are rarely released with much fanfare or detail, if at all. The enrolled class profile is typically buried in an alumni magazine article months later.

    Why is this relevant to this blog’s topic? Because there are certain students that every college will accept, knowing full well that they have little or no chance to get them (unless you are Harvard perhaps). That’s right, there is one particular demographic cohort that the schools are willing to sacrifice a little bit of yield for so that they can pump up the acceptance rate in the press release. And that group is African Americans. The fact is that, sadly, there are so few “qualified” Black students applying, that the most competitive schools will accept as many as they can, knowing full well they have little or no chance the accepted student will enroll. In general, these schools will not do this for any other group, as the yield % is too critical to risk diluting too much.

    Do the math. If you dig you can find the number of black acceptances and compare them to the number of black enrollments at some of these schools. You will quickly realize that many are getting multiple offers — but they can only attend one school. And that school is often Harvard. Their yield on accepted blacks was 74% for the class of 2021, not much below the overall 81% yield. But at Princeton, the black yield was approx. 36% vs. 66% overall.

    Where am I going with this? If the student chosen for this blog topic was anything other than an African American, then I would agree that he/she took away a spot from another candidate. But not in this case. When 20 colleges accepted Micheal Brown, for almost all of them, they did so fully understanding they had virtually no chance of getting him. They were not holding a spot for him. The decision to offer him an admit did not cause them to cut back by one the number of admits to the class.

  • Micheal Brown says:

    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.

    • Micheal Brown says:

      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

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