Nothing "guarantees" admission-- not winning Intel, playing at Carnegie Hall, being in the Olympics--but Harvard like to see that an applicant is passionate and has married passion with ability and demonstrated excellence-- USAMO is one way to do so. But USAMO by itself is insufficient --Now if one was the Gold medal winner of the IMO---that--that will make a reader sit up and take notice--but not even that guarantees admissions.
everliving48: "Does making USAMO almost guarantee an admission to top colleges?"
everliving48: "Etondad, as I mentioned in my post I realize that nothing guarantees admission."
But that said, those are all nice accomplishments, if you can tie it all together. If you can't, well, they're still nice accomplishments. Anyway, they tend to be fairly correlated. There will be more than a few applicants with USAMO, advanced coursework, *and* MIT RSI (or primes, whatever that is). History shows they're not all going to get in. And why would you trade off among them based on a hypothetical admissions advantage, instead of which excites you more?
Last year I did the AMC and qualified for AIME, but then I was out of town for both of the testing dates due to spring break and science fair. I explained all of that in my application, though I can see how they still might not have liked it.
Either way I don't care because I like Dartmouth and that's where I'm going.
Most USAMO people I know have gone to HPSMC (C = Caltech), (H, M, C, S, P, in order) but there are a couple I know at Berkeley, and I have heard of others going to many other colleges. I started a thread about this in the College Search & Selection board.
According to my son, there seems --at least in 55-- to be a real division between the Olympiad and the advanced college course types-- he can even tell by looking at their proofs which of the two camps classmates come from. Now he is Olympiad trained and has a prejudice (and admits it is a prejudice...) toward that background, but both do very well indeed in higher mathematics.
bobtheboy--soon you may have to add Williams to that list as I saw that they beat out even Princeton in the Putnam (came in 10th). Their math department is amazing--my D will be going there in the fall so I have been watching them for the past few months and have been very impressed.
I'll ask him -- he has mentioned it to me on several occasions, but I'll ask him to be more specific (actually he has but I can't recall it with sufficient clarity to repeat it here). And I'll ask him about those who have both...
He is traveling for a few days so I'll post once I speak with him...