College Admissions : Predictable or Not?

Not from the university but a surprising number of students brought their CVs and application materials.

I certainly have seen the entire application for many students over the years, especially when we were doing lengthy reports (back in the day).

I interview for Stanford, and I’ve had the opposite reaction. I’ve been surprised by how well the admission decisions have corresponded to my interview ratings. These ratings involve categories that are extremely similar to the criteria Stanford says they are looking for on their website. Every admission decision among kids I have interviewed has corresponded reasonably well. It’s almost a perfect correlation if I rank by lowest rating among any category, rather than average rating. Highest are accepted, next group down is deferred, others are rejected.

I realize that there should be many unexpected decisions since the vast majority of the admission decision depends on criteria and other external factors that I do not have access to. I mostly hear about out of classroom activities, personal goals, overcoming challenges, favorite courses + course rigor, and other non-stat factors. Perhaps this relationship occurs because the kids I interview tend to excel in the stat factors, so admission decision is better correlated with the non-stat factors that I hear about. Or it may just be a small sample size anomaly.

The only applicant I was really surprised by at the time was a high academic achieving internationally ranked athlete being rejected. In retrospect, I suspect that he wasn’t treated as recruited athlete from an admissions perspective. Had he been treated like a recruited athlete, he probably wouldn’t have been referred to me as an interviewer.

Another key factor for Cornell is to which school the student applies. For example, Cornell has a reputation for being the strongest Ivy for engineering and probably gets an especially high achieving and competitive engineering applicant pool. Among this high achieving applicant pool, males applying to Cornell Engineering only had a 6% admit rate in 2019. One should certainly not assume that Cornell is the least selective Ivy for all groups.

There are also some unique Cornell schools that look for a unique list of criteria beyond stats… in some cases emphasizing very different from the criteria for most other Ivies. With the very different emphasized admission criteria, it should not be surprising to have different admission decisions. In short, there are many possible explanations.

1 Like

@roycroftmom - I’m not sure what you are basing your comment on, but @Mwfan1921 is correct in pointing out that I was talking about RD acceptance rates. In 2019, Vanderbilt’s RD acceptance rate was 6.3%, which is consistent with what I said. (9% overall)

@Data10 - I don’t remember how we were given the statistic for Brown that year (if it was something I was able to look up or if it was in materials they sent), but I do remember the RD rate being in the 4s. From what they sent about the overall acceptance rate and this article, I see the overall rate as 6.6%. They list the number of accepted students as 2551. It follows that the RD rate would be in line with what I quoted.
Brown admits 2,551 students to the undergraduate Class of 2023 | Brown University


Vanderbilt Admits 6.3% of Regular Decision Applicants Amid College Admissions Scandal – Vanderbilt Political Review.

Looking at Brown’s common data set and an article where they published their ED rates that year, it seems the2019 RD rate was 5.1% and not “under 5%” as I said. Still not enough of a difference to comment that “Brown never reported an acceptance rate of 5%”.


The news story stats match the CDS ones from my earlier post exactly for number of overall applications, and number of ED applications . However, the CDS reports a slightly different number of acceptances. The CDS says 2733 accepted, while the article says 2551 accepted. Browns profile page at states 2739 acceptances, which is nearly identical to the CDS and other federal reporting sources. So I suspect the CDS, federal reporting in iPEDS, and Brown’s profile page are the accurate sources, and the news article is the anomaly. Perhaps there were some additional acceptances at a later date, beyond the date numbers were collected for the news article or similar.

As such, I do not think we should make a rough estimate based on the news story, and instead should manually calculate using the CDS or similar. The latter calculation yields a 6% RD admit rate. Regardless of whether the admit rate is 6%, 5% or <5%, it is still very low.

1 Like

It’s also possible to generate a lower RD rate if you include the deferreds from the early round in the denominator of the RD round. While deferreds would be in a sense double counted, from the perspective of an applicant in the RD round they are competing against both new RD applicants plus those deferred.


I’m well aware of the differences in admit rates for the different colleges at Cornell but I specifically met with kids applying to CAS. At this point, Dyson is even more competitive than COE, so in no way was I implying the Cornell was an easy admit.

My point was that every year there were stellar kids rejected from Cornell but admitted to peer schools. The only students that I felt that I could really predict were the stellar students that had hooks.

Parents usually have no access to other students’ app packages. Many colleges prohibit interviewers from looking at an app if a kid brings it. Some colleges give interviewers upfront, a rough idea of what they may be especially looking for, this season, to fill some need. But not all and not always.

And the nature of the pool from certain areas can vary widely. Silicon Valley, eg, vs the greater LA area.