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Stanford or Harvard EA?

marvelousmarvelmarvelousmarvel Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
I'm debating between applying to Stanford or Harvard EA. Objectively, my stats and ECs are competitive, but my high school has only had one Harvard accept so far vs more than five Stanford accepts in the past few years.

To be completely honest, if it comes down to it, Harvard would be my top choice over Stanford, but I think I may have a better chance of getting into Stanford. On the other hand, I've won a significant award from a well-known Harvard undergrad organization that could (possibly??) boost my chances there.

Any advice?
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Replies to: Stanford or Harvard EA?

  • damon30damon30 Registered User Posts: 1,007 Senior Member
    To be completely honest, if it comes down to it, Harvard would be my top choice

    You answered your own question. As long as the odds aren't zero, ED/SCEA applications should always be to the top choice. The reason is that acceptance by the second choice (or lower) school will cause you to always wonder "what if".
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,751 Senior Member
    Harvard would be my top choice over Stanford

    Yes, but understand that colleges often times have better relationships with certain high schools. If your HS has 5X the number of admits to Stanford than Harvard, your chances of being admitted to Stanford are BETTER no matter your preference. As both schools are reaches even for tippy top students, and you can only apply to one school SCEA, I would advise your to apply to Stanford SCEA and Harvard in the RD round.
  • damon30damon30 Registered User Posts: 1,007 Senior Member
    edited May 7
    If your HS has 5X the number of admits to Stanford than Harvard, your chances of being admitted to Stanford are BETTER no matter your preference.

    This sounds like a reason to apply to Stanford RD. Here is why trying to maximize the odds of getting in a second choice is a mistake - the student thinks the optimization function is "maximum chances for the best school", but the real optimization is "maximum happiness". Consider the case where the SCEA second choice is "accept" and the RD first choice result is "reject". Although the cold calculation says this a good outcome, it's a cold comfort for personal reasons, e.g. https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-admissions/2131179-i-feel-horrible-ed-regret.html
    The only thing that continuously rests on my mind is the possibility of HYPSC and how I'll never know because I chose to ED to Duke. It is hard to escape that mindset because everyone is talking about colleges around this time. I feel like I have a demon fiddling with my head. This sort of notion replays in my head again and again, that I had a decent chance in getting into at least one of the HYPSC. ...
    ...
    I am so bitter. No matter how much others tell me that Duke is a great school, ambition for more does indeed make me a slave. The desire is making me sick and I feel and look terrible. But most of all I feel lost and guilty, like I have just thrown away a chance at something greater. ...

    Admittedly this probably an extreme example, but mainly that he was willing to share these feelings. Everyone would have the same reaction to some extent. What if...?
  • marvelousmarvelmarvelousmarvel Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    edited May 7
    @damon30 I think you may be confusing SCEA with ED. SCEA stands for Single-Choice Early Action which is simply submitting your application earlier than RD folks, albeit without the ability to apply to any other (private) university during the early action period. On the other hand, ED is binding, which means that if you're accepted you MUST go to that college.

    @gibby Thank you for the advice! Should the fact that fewer students apply to Harvard than Stanford from my school be taken into consideration at all?
    Additionally, just because I'm curious, what does it mean for a school to have a good relationship with a college? Do you mean in terms of acceptances, or as in, literally, the university keeps a lookout for applicants from the high school?
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,751 Senior Member
    edited May 7
    @marvelousmarvel: When a college accepts a good number of students from a particular high school, it means that college really understands the rigor of curriculum at that high school, appreciates the quality of teaching at that high school and the caliber of students they turn out. It's also a good indication that the HS guidance counselor has a working relationship with Admissions Officers from that college and can pick up the phone and advocate for their students in a way they can't do with another college that only accepts one student every five years or so (as Harvard has done from your HS).

    A college that has accepted a good number of students from a particular high school can also 'track" the students they've admitted in the past and see how well they've done at their college. In your case, Stanford seems to know, understand and appreciate the students at your high school more than Harvard. Now, that may be true because you're from the Bay area (I read through your post history) and Harvard is on the other side of the country.

    FWIW: As a Massachusetts college, Harvard shows a preference for students from Massachusetts. My guess is that Stanford has a preference for kids from California. See: https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2015/3/26/regional-diversity-scrutiny/
    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the greatest example of Harvard’s regional imbalance. Massachusetts’s 6.7 million residents constitute about 2 percent of the nation’s population, according to 2014 projections based on the 2010 Census. In contrast, 15 percent of current Harvard freshmen hail from the Bay State.

    Fitzsimmons and the Admissions Office are upfront and realistic about the challenges they face in terms of evening out these disparities in regional representation. According to Fitzsimmons, “80 percent of students will go to college within 200 miles of their homes, and 90 percent will go to college within 500 miles of their homes.” Fitzsimmons says this has been the case for decades and is a problem of which he and his office are aware during their outreach efforts.
  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher Registered User Posts: 144 Junior Member
    Take the relationship your hs has with Stanford and go with it. These relationships can really make the difference. You can also ask your counselor. She/he may have insight, especially if your school has a good relationship with one school. She/he might also be evasive on this topic, so don't be direct and don't explicitly ask about relationships. Your counselor will probably drop hints if she thinks you stand a much better chance at one than the other.

    Also, fwiw, these schools are way more similar than they are different. Years from now you'll probably be happy with your choice regardless of where you go. I don't imagine a scenario where you'd love one of these schools and hate the other. Colleges like to paint a picture of themselves in admissions, but the picture you are given isn't a very good representation of what going to that school is really like. Choosing a school is taking a leap of faith. You won't really know what it's like until you go there and have been there for a while (e.g. a couple of years). And once you go and have been there a while you'll be a pretty different person from the person you are now, a person with different preferences and values--preferences and values that were shaped by that school.

    In short, you probably have a pretty poor idea of what Stanford and Harvard are actually like, but you need not worry because they are both excellent schools and you will be happy regardless of where you go. That being said, you may not be happy if you go to a much lower caliber school, so you should prioritize raising your chances of admission.
  • bluebayoubluebayou Registered User Posts: 26,542 Senior Member
    edited May 8
    but my high school has only had one Harvard accept so far vs more than five Stanford accepts in the past few years.

    Before I went down the correlation = causation path, I'd ask the GC if any of those Stanford admits were legacy or athletic recruits.

    Hint to others responding: OP lives in the Bay Area, which happens to have a lot of Stanford parent alums, but not so many H alums (relatively).

    fwiw: At our SoCal high school, once one removes the legacies and athletic recruits to Stanford, admissions for the unhooked to S & H are about equal.
  • washugradwashugrad Registered User Posts: 970 Member
    I agree with @bluebayou ... look really carefully at whether the Stanford admits from your school have a parent alum or or employee connection. It's quite likely that that alone would explain the difference between the number admitted to Stanford vs Harvard from your high school, and if that's the case, put your mind at ease about using your own SCEA or ED choice for the school you actually prefer.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 27,507 Senior Member
    I think you need to talk to your counselor about whether the Stanford admits are more simply because you have more kids in your high school applying to S vs H and also if those kids have some S connections.

    Being on the east coast, the opposite situation reigns. Looking at one of my kids' book of college info at a private school that does get a lot of kids in the top schools, it's pretty clear from the coding of the results that there is a lot of legacy at play there Legacy, some celebrity and development. Also things that are not in the book. I knew kids who had very close family friends and relatives on staff at some of these schools. Yes, those tip factors can make a huge difference. I did not know a single person with a Stanford connection and none were noted. Not only that; in the last 5 years there was only one Stanford applicant. Hard to say whether a kid applying from there with no connections at all other than going to that high school that H has to know, would be better off statistically in getting into H or S.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 27,507 Senior Member
    I meant to add, that there is a small geographical advantage when you apply out of area. I've been surprised how infrequently S comes up in the college lists of the top kids here. It's always HPYC and the rest of the ivies.
  • jzducoljzducol Registered User Posts: 716 Member
    If OP is unhooked the most likely outcome during SCEA for H is a deferral and for S is a rejection. The first decision of the season being an outright rejection in early Dec will be devastating. Even if its true as an unhooked SCEA applicant, say 10% chance at H vs 20% at S, your chance of rejection in early Dec at H is 0% vs 70% at S!

    Clearly, SCEA H is safer route, let alone being the top choice for OP.
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,751 Senior Member
    edited May 8
    @jzducol wrote "Clearly, SCEA H is safer route"

    Meh. https://www.boston.com/news/education/2015/12/11/harvard-accepts-record-low-percentage-of-early-applicants
    Of those who weren’t accepted on Thursday, 75 percent were deferred to the regular admission cycle and 7 percent were denied admission.

    Last year, just 2.3 percent of applicants who were deferred to the regular admissions cycle received acceptance letters.

    With a 75% chance of being deferred from Harvard in SCEA round and then a 97.7% chance of being rejected in the RD round as a deferred applicant, I would NOT say SCEA to H is the safer route. In fact, it's worth noting that RD applicants to Harvard have a BETTER chance at acceptance than deferred applicants!!!

    IMHO, in the overall big picture, I think being rejected SCEA from Stanford is far BETTER than being dangled on a string for four months by Harvard, hoping and wishing and praying . . . and then being dumped in the RD round, as you immediately know where you stand at Stanford and a student can put the focus on other colleges.

    OP, whether you apply to Stanford or Harvard SCEA, you need to also apply early to your flagship state schools (UC Los Angles, UC Berkley, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC San Diego) and other great state schools across the country (UMich, University of Virginia, College of William & Mary, University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill etc). The goal is to have a wealth of acceptances in your back pocket come mid-December, which will take the sting out of being rejected by Stanford or deferred by Harvard. Best of luck to you!

  • jzducoljzducol Registered User Posts: 716 Member
    If OP is a Ca resident, he/she is going to apply to all UCs, which is one application for all, and due on Nov. 30th. OP is very unlikely to apply to OOS flagships, especially in early round. From what I can see, very few kids having a choice between in-state UCB/UCLA and OOS flagships would opt for the later at twice the cost. If OP thinks she/he is competitive in SCEA, UCs would be a pretty sure thing. So the most likely scenario is that by mid Dec, OP has applied to only SCEA and UCs and will be anxiously waiting to hear the first and only decision before late Feb and early March.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 27,507 Senior Member
    I don’t know about how sure a thing the UCs are just because someone thinks they are competitive for Stanford and Harvard. I’ll be learning a lot more about the UCs and Cal States as my brothers kids are coming to college age there, but from what I’ve heard, no slam dunks there. And not all UCs even are preferable to some OOS flagships.

    I suggest that the OP do some research and come up with some good strong safety schools to bolster if early news not good
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