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Accepted to Only 2 Out of 17 Schools - and What I Learned


Replies to: Accepted to Only 2 Out of 17 Schools - and What I Learned

  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 23,409 Forum Champion
    edited April 2016
    Thanks for sharing. The good news is that you can only attend one college and Berkeley is a fantastic school! Go forward, learn from your mistakes, and have a great college experience!
  • inn0v8rinn0v8r Registered User Posts: 226 Junior Member
    @OnlyBerkeley2020 you have some absolutely humbling achievements, like making AIME all 4 years, making USAPho repeatedly, and so on. You clearly have an amazing engine. And as shown here by making this post, a great heart as well.

    If you had done some different things, you might have had more choices. BUT nevertheless, you will be attending one of the top schools in the world (in your area of interest and overall), hands down. And it will be very much a meritocracy. If you work hard like you did in high school, you will emerge with stellar grades and stellar opportunities, and you won't even waste a further thought on the road not traveled. You will be competitive for top jobs, top grad schools, top professional schools, etc.

    With Regents, essentially you will have much of the same experience and advantages of going to a private school, but still emerge with the scrappiness and grit from attending a public school that future employers will appreciate.

    4 years from now, you will be wanting to change your name to Berkeley2020FTW.

  • Waiting2exhaleWaiting2exhale Registered User Posts: 2,688 Senior Member
    edited April 2016
    @OnlyBerkeley2020 : Add me to the group of CCers who wish you nothing but clear eyes on the road forward, putting the past behind you and grabbing for the gold rings still to come. Believe in your voice and your vision for yourself.

    When you feel down, or have a moment when you are doubting that you are in the right place because there was a road that might have been the better road, or you imagine there may have been a better you, in a brighter space inside of yourself...touch center and forgive yourself, and then let.it.go.

    You have done well. Congratulations.
  • NJFabFourNJFabFour Registered User Posts: 123 Junior Member
    I commend you on your hard work and excellent options to choose from. I would chime in with those that have said you may have considered broadening your range of schools. We worked with an adviser who made it very clear that there should be at least 3 solid safety schools on every applicant's list of schools. If you look at acceptance rates for the schools you applied to, you can easily surmise that there are no guarantees. As I explained to my S who applied to Columbia, that with a 6% acceptance rate, you have to consider that for every 100 applicants, they are selecting 6 and rejecting 94 who are just as qualified, just as deserving. One admissions counselor from Harvard actually told us that if admitted, consider yourself to be the needle found in a very large haystack.
    So while your advice is very beneficial, I would add that including strong safety schools and, as you noted, demonstrating solid and strong interest in your top choices is very important. After reading numerous posts on the threads for the individual colleges, I was surprised by students who were rejected with very strong stats above the average for some of the schools. Yield is a critical factor for the schools now and they want to award those acceptances to those they feel are most likely to accept their offer. You need to give them every indication that there school is a top choice for you by demonstrating interest. Both my S and D are attending schools in which their stats are on the lower end of the school's averages and I think it was their demonstrated interest that led to their admission. You have a bright future, congratulations.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,463 Senior Member
    First congrats on two great acceptances.

    It's always hard to know why one application grabs an admissions officer and another doesn't. Obviously you had the stats and grades. I agree with much of your advice having had a somewhat similar experience with my older son. (He got into Harvard helped by being a legacy and timing and Carnegie Mellon for CS which he attended and loved, so a happy ending - he's at his dream job now. He doesn't even think twice about MIT, Caltech and Stanford rejections.)

    To your points.

    1. Your essays need to stand out. I don't think passion is the only way to go. But you want to come across as likable and interesting. My younger son did better than expected thanks in part to some very funny essays. (We know admissions officers liked them because we got comments about them.)

    2. Improvement is great, but you know sometimes you are as good as you are. I don't know if you could have made it to the next level or not. I think my son's best score on the AIME was a 3. He liked math, but CS was his passion, so he didn't spend time on the math. I think that was an okay approach.

    3. Research isn't the only way to go. My son dropped out of our school's science research program as a freshman. But he did spend huge amounts of time on computer programming teaching himself Linux and working both in paid and unpaid positions. Even though he didn't do research he did a small project for a med school professor that he met at a neighborhood party that still gets used. That professor volunteered to write a recommendation letter. So use your connections. Take advantage of opportunities.

    4. While you don't have to be best buddies with teachers. This is another area where I saw a huge difference between my two kids. My CS guy would always do only just enough to get the A in his humanities and social science courses, and when he needed a non-STEM recommendation (thanks MIT) he really didn't know who to ask. He used his Latin teacher and I really don't think that was ideal. Younger son OTOH had written an amazing paper for APUSH, but also loved his pre-calc teacher and both teachers had positive things to say about him.

    5. Some schools care about interest, but most schools of this caliber don't. My older son told his Harvard interviewer Harvard wasn't his first choice. They took him anyway. Maybe they liked his chutzpah. Maybe they really wanted more CS kids that year. Who knows.

    I do think both essays and recommendations are much more important that students realize. The essays are the best way you can stand out. You want the admissions officer to think, boy I'd really like to be in class with this person, or this person sounds like they'd be a great roommate. And not oh no, another essay about what I learned working with poor kids in Haiti, or what I learned from losing the big game, or whatever the favorite subject this year is.

  • Waiting2exhaleWaiting2exhale Registered User Posts: 2,688 Senior Member
    edited April 2016
    Demonstrated interest is not something that every school cares about. Look at the Common Data Set grids, colleges state whether they weight this aspect of the applicant's efforts or not.

    This just to say that the unknowables are exactly that - unknowable. This student did a fine job of meeting what many of us would certainly consider the quantifiables: GPA and standardized tests.

    The rest can sometimes be simply forever impossible to know in the college selection process.

    I say this because my daughter only "demonstrated" interest by setting up a meeting with a department head, at one"prestigious" school. But she was accepted to many, not just that one.

    This student has given us a sensitive view into his/her ideas of what may have produced different outcomes, had those steps been taken. But it is all to be left unknown in the end. There will be no truth greater than that which the student has revealed to us has come to be known on this sojourn.

    The rest is to be supposed; considered, but supposed.

    @OnlyBerkeley2020 : You have yet to do your best work. Continued success.
  • bfedwardsbfedwards Registered User Posts: 23 New Member
    Hello, You write a thank you note to the decision maker. The admission staff member who addressed the group. 50 potentials in the group , 2 thank you notes. Easy decision maker on who has the greater interest in attending.Those thank you notes and other correspondance go into your application folder and are read again with your application. . For sure, my daughter wrote thank you notes in each instance thanking them and noted what impressed her about the campus/administration/students/program/ect. 5 submissions/ 4 acceptances ( made a grammatical error in one school's essay....that's all it takes to get rejected now a days) .
  • inn0v8rinn0v8r Registered User Posts: 226 Junior Member
    edited April 2016
    Just for the record,
    Be aware that UCB L&S CS requires a 3.3 GPA in its prerequisites to declare the L&S CS major:
    is totally not going to be an issue for you.

    OP did apply to more selective majors at UCLA and UCD than at UCB, where s/he applied to L&S which does not admit by major. It does seem like the OP got lucky with the admissions readings at UCB (to get Regents' scholarship) and UCSD (to get into CSE instead of undeclared).

    Increasing population and probably increasing high school grade inflation may be compressing the admissible GPA ranges and therefore making other factors like essays more important.
    ^^^ don't agree with this at all. I see it the opposite way. UCB and UCSD saw through to the OP's raw potential, that some other schools missed because of his lesser effort on packaging. His grades were great, and he had the scores to back it up (SAT II's all indicating a mastery of the subjects), so there's no indication of inflation.

    Perhaps what caused rejection to so many "elite" schools were your GPA of 4.4, which though was great, but perhaps not as glorious as your other stats.
    Sorry, but no.

    The lesson we learned was that you can't take anything for granted when applying to a top 40 school for CS/Engineering.
    Sorry to end on a dark note, but unfortunately, THAT is the reality now.

  • SeekingPamSeekingPam Registered User Posts: 790 Member
    @bfedwards Thank you (although my kid will not thank you as kid will have more work to do soon!)

    So if the Director of Admissions speaks to the junior year tour group and then some random staffer speaks to us, my kid should send an email to each? If it is just random staffer A who speaks to us, that is who the email thank you should be sent to.

    If we go to one of those college night things and she meets representatives from 10 colleges she MAY be intersted in she should email them as well I would assume.

    This is very relevant as we will go on many tours in the near future.
  • Waiting2exhaleWaiting2exhale Registered User Posts: 2,688 Senior Member
    If there were some full-proof reason to write thank you notes to everyone with whom your student interacted, believe me, you would know about it before now.

    Thank you notes are never too much, but I think it is too much to attach the weight of a thank you note to every person and point of contact your student has.

    Perhaps this is what @bfedwards did along the way inside of the application process, and they tie the notes to the push given to their child's application. That is, you should know, not a cause-and-effect situation.

  • Hope4567Hope4567 Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    edited April 2016
    @OnlyBerkeley2020, I am just curious - was your college counselor someone who you saw in person, or worked with purely online/remotely? Also, how were you able to speak with former admissions counselors? :O I think that would be very enlightening and I'd like to know how to go about it.

    And by the way, thank you SO much for making such an in-depth post on this topic. I'm sure it will help other people who have experienced something similar.
  • OnlyBerkeley2020OnlyBerkeley2020 Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
    @Hope4567 She was somebody I saw in person. Former admissions counsellors were people who I had gotten in contact with through the events I went to such as college seminars.
  • DualDegreeSeekerDualDegreeSeeker Registered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
    edited April 2016
    @OnlyBerkeley2020 I respect you for owning it but honestly you are being EXTREMELY hard on yourself. After reading your post, the only thing I can think of that could have gotten in the way of more acceptances is probably your essay. An essay must be personal, non generic, and non contrived. My advice for any aplicant would be to have your essay reviewed by more than one counselor wether it being a private famours one or not and then follow your gut instinct. I went to a highly sought after counselor in my town. I could barely get an appt with her. While she gave many useful tips, she also gave tips that made no sense to me. For example, she wanted me to delete a small opening paragraph that she deemed is not as serious as the rest of my essay. I felt that the paragraph was building up a climax. Showed my essay to 2 other counselors and my English teacher who all thought I should keep it. I went with my guts and kept the paragraph and got into many great places.
    Also, read the essay of the girl from Oregon who got accepted into 5 ivies and Stanford. I didn't find it passionate in any way, she didn't even answer the prompt. You never know what the admission officers are looking for and at the end it is their loss. Congratulations on your acceptances and you've got some great places to choose from. UCB is great not only for computer science and engineering but in all areas.
    You did the equivalenet of research by self teaching yourself coding and interning at a cloud computing company and then you programmad a G code generator! Not everybody needs to have a patent to be accepted case in point I know many people who on paper are less qualified than you and were accepted into few ivies but they wrote a passionate essay.
    I absolitely doubt the Quora post being truthful, Harvard, and most of the other top schools, do not allow their professors to recommend any high school student unless they have done substantial research with them. Few of my brilliant friends did a Summer at Harvard and the professors they studied with were super impressed by them, yet they declined to write any recommendations. 2 of the students were rejected from Harvard and one was wait listed. It happened with another friend at Brown too.
    Another advice, is that the trend has changed: colleges are looking more for specialization and less for a well rounded student. They want someone who takes one or 2 interests and focuses on them and goes in depth into them.

  • MAB222MAB222 Registered User Posts: 164 Junior Member
    Just another opinion: I have never heard of writing a thank you note to the random admissions officer who happens to read the spiel for the info session that day. If you have an appointment or interview with one yes - but I honestly don't think the admissions officers wants, needs or cares about a thank you note from the thousands of students he or she addresses every admissions cycle. In fact, if asked, I think most would tell you to please not do that - they don't need their inboxes swamped with thank yous when students are trying to contact them with genuine questions. It goes without saying - if you bothered to show up for the info session - you have some interest in the school !
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