In highly selective college admissions, interest matters. Colleges want to know that you love them. They want to know that you’ll choose them over any other school. As Meredith Grey told McDreamy in “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Pick me, choose me, love me.” You see, colleges are insecure like that and this insecurity is directly rooted in college rankings, specifically the “US News & World Report” rankings. Colleges want to admit students who are serious about attending. The University of Pennsylvania will deny a student admission — without much consideration — irrespective of her grades, scores, and the rest of her application if she writes a Why Penn essay that doesn’t cite specific after specific about the school. This same student may earn admission to Harvard but nonetheless, they never stood a chance at UPenn with such an approach.
Colleges Want To Be Loved
Every college wants to be loved. Are there certain colleges that are a bit less insecure than others? Yes, absolutely. Consider Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford secure. But every other school, including every other Ivy League college, has some measure of insecurity. If a student is admitted to Cornell and Harvard, they’ll essentially choose Harvard every time out of ten. And Cornell, like every highly selective university in America, is no dummy. They know this. So they won’t offer an applicant admission — even if that applicant would be strong by Harvard’s standards — if they don’t think they’ll actually go to college in Ithaca. In the end, it’s all about the yield. It’s why so many colleges require that applicants answer an essay prompt that reads something like, “Why do you want to go to this college?” We like to call it the Why College essay. In addition to articulating your sincere interest in the college through the school’s supplemental essay prompts, visiting colleges is key too! If you don’t visit, these schools won’t think you’ll actually want to attend. It’s that simple.
How College Admissions Isn’t Like Dating
But, Ivy Coach, we get that colleges want to be loved. Isn’t that like dating? Well, yes and no. In the age of Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, OkCupid, and more, one would be at least somewhat naive to think that folks respond to genuine acts of interest. In many ways, as complicated as so many think the highly selective college admissions process may be, in the twenty-five years we’ve been in this business, we have developed a clearcut, straightforward strategy that works, that helps our students optimize their odds of admission. It’s why we’ve earned our reputation. And as our twenty and thirty-something readers who are dating or just got married know all too well, there is no clearcut, straightforward strategy to dating. Text a girl that you’re interested in a second date too soon after a fun round of drinks (and a kiss!) on date 1 and you may encounter radio silence. Wait too long and she may write back, “Who dis?” Or maybe she’ll want to marry you because you waited so long, because you made her feel so insecure that your text was just a breath of fresh air. Who knows, who cares.
So as stressful as the highly selective college admissions process may be, take comfort in the notion that there is a definitive right way and a definitive wrong way to go about the process.