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High 1st tier vs low first tier schools

nb1999nb1999 Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
Hi! I just made this account so I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask questions

Anyway, I know that the acceptance rates for the very best (say, 5) schools only differ from those of the next 20 or so schools by 5-15%, but is there a significant difference in the applicant pools for these schools in terms of scores, gpa, activities, essays, etc?

To alleviate any confusion, I mean schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford or MIT compared to schools like Amherst, Williams, Pomona, Vandy, Dartmouth, Cornell, Rice, or Johns Hopkins

Replies to: High 1st tier vs low first tier schools

  • happy1happy1 Registered User Posts: 18,466 Senior Member
    edited August 11
    All of these schools will have extremely strong self-selected applicant pools. I'd consider the schools you listed to be reaches for any unhooked applicant.
  • DolemiteDolemite Registered User Posts: 1,609 Senior Member
    A lot of the same applicants will apply to the schools you listed. Strong candidates for HYPSM will also apply to less selective schools. It's one of the reasons these schools have so many apps because applicants are applying to so many more schools than in the past.
  • sheepskin00sheepskin00 Registered User Posts: 89 Junior Member
    Generally speaking, any student accepted at the "lower tier" schools on your list would have also been contenders at HYPSM. It's a crap shoot at that level. The academic credentials of both groups of students will be more or less the same.
  • Penn95Penn95 Registered User Posts: 2,048 Senior Member
    edited August 11
    @nb1999 There is probably a difference in student quality when comparing the top elite tier (HYPSM) to most of the non-HYPSM elite schools (i.e. the rest of the top 10-15 schools). How big the difference is depends on which schools you are comparing. In general most (but def not all) people at the lower elite schools wanted to get into HYPSM. However, I would argue that the differences lie mainly when comparing the top 10-20% cohorts. For example the top 10% at Harvard is definitely more impressive/accomplished than the top 10% at Cornell, but I would argue that the average or lower-than-average Harvard student is not that much more impressive than the average student at Cornell. Excluding the truly impressive students, prodigies etc, it is also a matter of luck whether a top student will get into HYPSM vs another lower-tier elite school.
  • CU123CU123 Registered User Posts: 1,306 Senior Member
    I would add to Penn95, that even in the top 10% you would have a hard time differentiating academically, it is the extra curricular(s) that would be where you could tell the difference. After all HYPSM is going to get the first shot at a lot of extraordinary applicants.
  • Much2learnMuch2learn Registered User Posts: 4,422 Senior Member
    @eyeveee "...the assumption is that if you are an elite academic you will be at one of the five."

    I don't think that is true they aren't really trying to grab the top academic students. Also, the next few schools will be the top pick for many top students: Columbia, Penn, Cal Tech, JHU, Duke, Chicago, Cornell, Brown and Dartmouth. They each have their own distinct personalities. They are not trying to be HYPSM. The top LACs and the state flagships attract some too.
  • TooOld4SchoolTooOld4School Registered User Posts: 2,829 Senior Member
    For full pay families the differences are more stark. HYPSM are pretty expensive when compared to a state flagship. In many cases, such as when a student wants to study engineering, you are comparing $65K MIT or Caltech vs $25K Purdue or Michigan, and many middle class families don't see a lot of value for the extra $40K. The Ivy's are not in the same class, except for Princeton or Cornell.
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal Registered User Posts: 3,176 Senior Member
    I know kids who got into Stanford but not Pomona or Williams. All of these schools are very very selective and are vying for many of the same applicants. But not every top student applies to all schools and not every talented student gets in to all of them. They differ in their programs and in their cultures. And they differ in what they prioritize in their students.

    There are very smart kids who apply to Vandy and have no interest in any of the Northeast schools. So HYP don't even have a chance with them.

    The idea that the "best top" kids (whatever that means!) all go through the same sorting hat process so certain schools can get their pick of the litter while others get the cast offs is misguided at best.

  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 27,729 Super Moderator
    edited August 12
    The purpose of this thread is not to debate which schools are (for lack of a better term) top tier vs. next tier. Posts deleted.
  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 2,796 Senior Member
    edited August 12
    "I know that the acceptance rates for the very best (say, 5) schools..."

    The phrase "the very best schools" is not well worded. I think that you meant to say "the top ranked schools". *Any* university or college is a bad choice for most students, and nearly all universities and colleges are a great choice for some students. There is no such thing as the "best school". There may be such as thing as the "best school for you".

    "... only differ from those of the next 20 or so schools by 5-15%, but is there a significant difference in the applicant pools for these schools in terms of scores, gpa, activities, essays, etc".

    In most cases the top ranked schools will have a higher percentage of their incoming students arriving with very high GPA, very high SAT scores, strong ECs, and so on. There may be a few "glitches" even in this because the top ranked schools will admit students based on things other than GPA and test scores, and therefore some students with all A's and A+'s might be turned down while another student with mostly A's and some B's and the same course load might be accepted at a top ranked school.

    More importantly, many of the students with very high GPA (including "all A's and never had a B in their life") and very high SAT scores will choose to go to schools that are a good fit for them even if the school is not ranked in the top say 20 or 30 schools.

    And yes, there are students who got into Stanford and were rejected by Cornell. I am one of them.
  • MintwoodMintwood Registered User Posts: 55 Junior Member
    I think @gardenstategal has said it very well. There are plenty of kids who believe that Bryn Mawr or Harvey Mudd (or anywhere else for that matter) are an excellent fit for them, and will prepare them well for grad school, and could not careless if people have not heard of the school on their sweatshirt. They may have had the grades to be a competitive applicant at a larger prestige university that everyone has heard of but they understand that getting the most out of their education may mean more than following the dictates of the status race
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 6,997 Senior Member
    Let's remember that there are kids that could get into to HYPSM and the like who don't even consider applying to them. There are exceptional kids at every state school, at every honors college, and schools that many of us are barely aware of. MANY extremely talented students go to colleges that cost them the least amount of money. It might be a shock to some people if they knew that not everyone applies to tippytop schools, even if they have the academic chops to be there. I have an exceptionally bright niece in So Cal whose dream school is Cal Poly SLO. As far as she is concerned, that's a tier 1 school.
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