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I think difficulty is overblown on CC

Hey all, now before you all ridicule me for being a moron I'd appreciate it if you'd hear me out. First, off I should say everyone should have a balanced list of reaches, matches, and safety schools, and excellent students are frequently declined admission to schools they are qualified for. As top schools get more an more competitive it's certainly easy to see why managing expectations is often the kind thing to do for applicants with high hopes. Nevertheless, I feel like college confidential is too extreme in its stance on how competitive schools actually are. I think a lot of the reactions might be stemming from protecting students, but some seems like it comes from a sense of pride about the difficulty of college confidential member's schools that they attended/attend/were accepted to. While I only have my own experience, I've watched 4 or 5 admissions cycles at my own school and closely looked at the results. While my school is an anomaly, and I will talk about this later, we consistently outperform even the wildest of college confidential expectations. I've been a long time lurker, looking on college confidential probably too much for my own good, and I'm very interested in these questions. I've always wanted to post this, so here goes.

I go to a small, competitive private school in a Mid-Atlantic State that sends a disproportionate of students to top colleges. Each graduating class is around the size of 80-90, and while some deviate smaller or larger, it's generally around this size. My current class is made up of 85 students many of whom are extraordinarily talented and intelligent, undoubtedly significantly more than I am. Based on my experience watching my class, and other previous classes apply to college, and seeing the results of my friends in and out of school, I've noticed a large disconnect between college confidential "chance me" thread responses and my real life experiences. While I get that people are only trying to be helpful, I sometimes worry that they are too pessimistic, and thus scare away bright students from applying where they might actually be accepted. My school is full of wealthy, mostly white, privileged kids, and 99%+ of students go to college, so I get we're weird, but there's so much success that I felt sharing might be beneficial to show CC that sometimes things aren't quite as hard as they seem. You have no way to believe me, I get that, and I won't share where I go to school, for obvious reasons, but I'd like to give you some results of our 85 student class for the early application round. None had crazy extracurriculars outside of what a normal but focused student would have.


Yale SCEA: 3 students.

-URM, recruited athlete, 3.85~ GPA, 1400-1450 SAT, Top Classes.

-Legacy (no large donor status), 3.75 GPA, 1400-1450 SAT, Top Classes.

-Unhooked, 3.9 GPA, 1500~ SAT, Top Classes.

Dartmouth ED 1 student.

-Unhooked, 3.9 GPA, 1500~ SAT, Top Classes.

Brown ED 3 students.

-URM, 3.6 GPA, 1400 SAT, Top Classes.

-Multiple Legacy, 3.6 GPA, 1300-1400 SAT, mostly top classes. (Personally, I believe his legacy to be special in some way)

-Legacy, 3.75 GPA , 1400~ SAT, mostly top classes.

UPenn 1 student.

-Legacy, 3.85 GPA, 1450 SAT, Top Classes.

Columbia 1 student

-URM, 3.9 GPA, 1500 SAT, Top classes.

NON-IVY generally considered top 25:

Northwestern 1 student.

-Legacy, 3.95 GPA, 1500 SAT, Top Classes.

Tufts 1 student.

-Unhooked, 3.8 GPA, 1500 SAT, Top Classes.

UChicago 1 student.

-Unhooked, 3.9 GPA, 1500+ SAT, Top Classes.

WUSTL 2 students.

-Unhooked, 3.8 GPA, 1450 SAT, Top Classes.

-Legacy, 3.8 GPA, 1540 SAT, mostly top classes.

I get our school is weird, I really do, but it's not like these results are even rare for our school. Not only this, but this occurs every year, and this is only early. I'm not saying this to try and brag, it's honestly pointless on the internet. In fact, I don't think that we're that special, I think this happens at other schools too. What I'm trying to get at is that if so many from my school can do it, I think others can too. Personally knowing everyone in my class, I can say we're not a weird breed of geniuses, we're just normal kids who happen to be bright. I see too much negativity on these forums, and I'd just like to offer some inspiration to people looking to apply to tough schools. Yes it's hard, and yes, people get better odds early, and you very well might not get in with these stats to these schools, but it's still possible.

To close I'd just like to try and make sure people don't start a war in the comments. Believe the stats or not, I can't prove it outside of real life, so if you don't believe them, I get it. Second, numbers aren't the only thing in applications. I know that's what I put up, but it's impossible to quantify subjective things, you're not made or broken by your stats. Third, as I said before, everyone should balance their schools, and make sure financials work, I believe everyone should have a shot at college, and in no way am I saying any of these schools are easy to get into. Finally, what school you get into doesn't make you as a student. I put up a lot of classically defined top schools, but at the end of the day a name is just that: a name. Don't get bogged down in prestige.

Thanks for reading, I know I write too much, fail to get to the point, and have poor style, but I hope I helped someone out their, or just made someone's day better. Thanks all!

Replies to: I think difficulty is overblown on CC

  • CALSmomCALSmom Registered User Posts: 748 Member
    @Applicant1200 do you think, based on your description of your school’s demographics, the numbers to these top schools are high because of full pay status and high chance of matriculation? I’m not trying to downgrade the students and their accomplishments, just wondering.
  • Marg532Marg532 Registered User Posts: 448 Member
    I live in a small rural town, and my friend got into Yale through Questbridge. She is the only person who has gone to an Ivy League from our high school in 20 - 30 years and probably longer. Everyone was freaking out about it. Our school doesn't really see people going to very selective schools very often. Some OOS publics, some in-state privates, and maybe a couple OOS privates. But nothing to the tune of top 25 or Ivy.
  • Applicant1200Applicant1200 Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    Yeah, I guess. I was hoping that it isn't completely that. I mean, of course, it has to be at least in part, but I'm not an adcom so I don't really know what's going on in their heads, just trying to understand based on data I have gotten in real life.
  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing Forum Champion Williams College Posts: 1,969 Forum Champion
    edited January 2018
    All my responses here are purely anecdotal and opinion-based, not scientific.

    I agree with the OP that I sometimes am surprised when people advise posters that what the poster is considering his/her matches are reaches, and advise only considering a school a “match” if the poster is in the top 25% by SAT/ACT. That ignores the fact that 75% of enrolling students (okay, maybe a bit smaller percentage of admitted students, but still well over half) have SAT’s below that. Being in the middle 50% is one of many factors in defining a “match.” (Colleges with under-20% overall admissions percentages should be counted as reaches by anyone, however, regardless of their hard score and GPA data.)

    I also am wondering if admissions this year may be a little easier than in past years— or if our school’s students sre doing better with admissions for some other reason. My local public high school is considered a desirable school in a largely upper middle class neighborhood. Yet, in past years, as per Naviance and annual press releases of admissions results for the top ten students, almost no one got into top-ranked colleges. (Not that rank is what one should base a college choice on— I am just using it to support my point that colleges may be less competitive this year). Most years there was only one or two students or no student listed as attending an Ivy League college, for example— and admission to HMPYS was unheard of before last year. Last year was a little better than usual— and this year is already dramatically better based on the early decision round alone!

    My son is the first student from his high school to be attending Williams since the start of Naviance data years ago. There also were students admitted to Wesleyan, Vanderbilt, Duke, Columbia, Brown, Franklin & Marshall, etc. in the early round this year. I may add that this year’s number of National Merit semi-finalists at the high school was ONE student, lower than last year when there were seven, so our scores are down, if anything. Yet more students are being admitted to top colleges than ever before, based on Naviance data.

    Are our high school’s students doing better, our guidance counselors getting more savvy, or admissions getting easier? I do not know.

    And while I do not know every classmate’s data or story, I do know that the one of the students admitted to one of these top schools had no hook whatsoever, and had scores and grades that, while excellent, were not high compared to that college’s data. This shows that admissions is truly holistic, and not based on scores or grades alone. My son’s friend will add a lot of personality to the campus, and it’s nice that admissions recognized that.
  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 2,439 Senior Member
    It's well known there are some Ivy feeder schools: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/12/13/making-harvard-feeder-schools/. Whether the unhooked students get a boost from attending a feeder school is debated endlessly, and your original post doesn't help answer the question. 7 out of 9 of your Ivy admits were hooked in some way. I'm betting your class's admission stats would look less stellar, if you only looked at the unhooked students.
  • roycroftmomroycroftmom Registered User Posts: 1,945 Senior Member
    There are 85 seniors and 2 of them, unhooked made it to an Ivy League school? That really isn't all the special.
  • IdiotBoy123IdiotBoy123 Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
    Alrighty, as a current high school student, I see it two ways. Private school do definitely allow for better guidance counselors who probably spend more time withe their students which allows for more opportunity for those students. I had never really considered that counselors at private schools could have more connections, but that seems to make perfect sense to me. I go to a rather low tier high school that is relatively small compared to some of the high schools I have seen on this website. I can tell you first hand that at my high school the guidance counselors dont really care about their students, and in fact I would even venture as far as stating that they encourage students to take the easy way out and apply to local state colleges, as they believe Ivy league and "Big name" colleges are a waste of money and effort. The guidance counselors are so awful that we dont even get that one hour that @milee30 mentioned. All of the advanced to students at my school will testify that it is pure hell trying to get the counselors to approve taking extra classes to boost GPA's

    The second major factor that separated public schools from private schools is class availability and teaching personnel. Obviously my school does have a decent variety of AP classes, but I would say they have about less than half of the AP classes offered by the college board, In order to seek the classes that one wants to take the advanced students are forced to take online classes, which are absolutely awful, and really hard to learn from. The teaching personnel at private schools are obviously much more practiced individuals than at public schools. My AP physics teacher had never taught AP physics before, and we were not even informed that the class was an AP class until about a month into the class, there were only 4 people who passed the exam out of around 50 who took it.

    In terms of the quality of students who graduate from my school, I'd say it is certainly less than stellar My sister's graduating class (C/o 2016) only had two people with GPA's in 5.0 which compared to some of the high schools I viewed is not great at all. My sister was the salutatorian of that class, and was rejected from every Ivy she applied too, thankfully she was accepted into Vanderbilt which is still and extremely prestigious school. In fact she was the only one to get into a top 25 university. My other sister's class (C/o 2017) was slightly better with around 4 people with 5.0s or greater, except there wan none who was accepted to an Ivy or a top 25 let alone any one who applied, though there were plenty who may have been accepted. My class this year is made up of about 350 students total I rank number 7 with a 4.76 weighted GPA, so its getting better, however out of all of the students in the class, my friend and I are the only ones I know of who actually are applying to Ivy leagues or top 25's. This statistics when compared to private schools are absolutely unheard of. I feel that such circumstances really hinder the student's chances at actually being admitted in to these prestigious schools. I have personally applied to UChicago( my top choice ), Columbia, Duke, Dartmouth, Swarthmore, Rice, FSU, Emory, Tulane, and Johns Hopkins. I was rejected from Columbia for ED1, Rejected from Tulane EA, and thankfully differed from Uchicago EA, The rest are RD. I said all of these things so that people would understand that making it to college is a different ride depending on a multitude of factors, some people are truly just much more privileged and lucky to get to attends great high schools.

  • RecusantSamRecusantSam Registered User Posts: 117 Junior Member
    edited January 2018
    I think the OP is on to something here.
    The VAST majority of US institutions take over 50% of applicants (CollegeData<dot>com). There is a fair amount of neurosis around college applications, in some cases rising to a frenzy.
    The fact is that many institutions are tuition-driven and need the bodies. In addition, it seems that the pool of prospective students is weakening (see article today on InsideHigherEd<dot>com).
    Going forward, apart from the most selective schools, and large state schools, colleges will need students more than students need the colleges.
    Everyone needs to work hard, do their best, and chill a bit.
This discussion has been closed.