Ethics of "Chancing" students

I thought immediately of the CC forum parents love to hate :slight_smile:

The article discusses the tension between encouraging students to follow their dreams and realistically advising them that they are not likely to get into their first choice(s).

This was the most interesting part, to me:

Why bother to shelter students? Better to be honest up front. The vast majority will be disappointed, but will do fine in the long run.

I wish “Chance Me” could be replaced with “Help Me With My List.” I think that would get more helpful responses.

I think students should be encouraged to shoot for the stars on ONE school, but not a whole list of them. A friend’s daughter had her heart set on Stanford and there was no way she’d get in, but I think she HAD to try. She knew the chances, and she had a lot of other schools where she could get in, but she just had to try for Stanford.

I think the danger for her was that she wasn’t giving other schools a fair chance. If a counselor can get a student to take a chance BUT remain interested in other schools, that would be ideal.

I’m not a fan of the “chance me” threads just because of the subjectivity of the answers from non-qualified people. However, if a student doesn’t feel “supported” based on such an answer, then that is a whole 'nother can of worms.

Some of the “chance me” questions have trivially obvious answers.

For example: “chance me for HYPSM?” Answer: “all reach.”

I am not a fan of the chance me threads – but in the rare instances when I reply I do feel that honesty is best. I would never dissuade people from applying to one or two huge reach schools but I also try to bring posters down to earth by suggesting that developing a well rounded list of reach, match, and safety schools that appear affordable and that they would be happy to attend should be the goal.

I think the “chance me” threads are pretty stupid, because those of us answering them do not have any magic insight. And I hate it when someone tells a student they have no chance if they are not within the top 25% of applicants; don’t they understand how percentages work, and that 75% of students don’t meet their criteria? … and when someone tells someone that their extracurricular activities are “not enough.” I always worry some student will listen to some random person on this forum and not pursue an application to a college where (s)he might have been accepted.

I disagree that high school counselors should discourage kids from including some reaches. That’s one way students from lower socioeconomic levels and minority backgrounds end up not applying to strong colleges— because people tell them these colleges do not accept students like them. No one should deny a child their right to reach for their stars… just teach them about target and safety schools as well.

I’m not sure how I feel about the “reach for the stars” philosophy. The number of applications that schools receive from unqualified applicants is out of control and is driving down the acceptance #s. At some level, it isn’t worth “reaching for the stars” and such applications should be discouraged. If a student has a shot, then they should apply. I think there’s enough information out there to reasonably gauge whether an applicant has a chance or not based on all admissions factors and Hail Mary applications, especially more than 1 per student, makes no sense.

But all students have a shot. This girl is at UCLA, and was also accepted to Washington, USC, Wisconsin, and a number of other elite schools. Stanford (and Harvard and Yale) should set minimums if they have minimum - no one without a 1500 and a gpa of 3.8. They’d still get 10 applications for every spot. She might have still met those requirements, but she didn’t have that ‘extra’ that those schools seem to need and that we all ‘know’ they need to have a real shot. She thought she had it.

She would have been miserable if she hadn’t taken the chance and had to live with ‘what if…’

I don’t understand the utility of the “chance me” posts. If it’s a question of academic record, anyone can get the stats for the schools’ incoming classes and compare themselves. You don’t need a bunch of strangers on CC to tell you whether your GPA or SAT or ACT is in line with the numbers at any particular school.

This has been bugging me lately, the idea that one should be in the top 25%. Naturally anyone would prefer to be in that quartile, and it’s much more important when merit scholarships are an imperative, but I don’t understand the mentality, explicit or implicit, that one has almost no chance if their stats don’t approach the 75th percentile. On the low end, the 25th percentile mark seems to be the designated point at which hooks become necessary, but what about the 50th or even 40th percentiles? Stats at those levels would seem to me to be matches, at which point the evaluation presumably moves on to other features of the app (with the caveat that at some level of low acceptance rates, all schools are reaches regardless). Or maybe I’m having difficulty visualizing a typical distribution within the middle 50.

I think that the “Chance me” threads are stupid and a total waste of time.

In theory, many of the GPA (or rank) and test score stats are readily available. However, it also looks like some of the “chance me” posters have not bothered to look for them, or were not able to find them if they did look.

But some colleges are less than transparent about their GPA (or rank) and test score stats. Those which have significantly different selectivity by major often give little or no information on that, so that we see applicants thinking that (for example) CS at UIUC or Washington is a match or safety instead of a reach, based on overall school admission stats. Other examples include in-state versus out-of-state admission stats at many public universities, or Texas public universities’ auto-admit versus non-auto-admit selectivity.

Obviously, it would be desirable if at least public universities were more transparent about admission stats based on majors, residency, etc. so that applicants can be more realistic about applying and assessing reach/match/safety.

HYPSM… type colleges typically claim that 80-90% of applicants are academically qualified. For example, in the article at , the director of admissions at Stanford estimated that 80% of applicants are academically qualified to handle Stanford. Of course this doesn’t mean all of that large 80% group has a good chance of admission.

It would be nice if we could estimate chance of admission well, then it would be straightforward to determine whether that chance of success is worth the time, effort, and cost required to apply. Some students would feel a long shot is worth the time/effort/cost. Other students would not. Both would be acceptable decisions, depending on personal values and situation.

However, the reality is that highly selective colleges tend to have very holistic admissions decisions. You can estimate if your scores are in/above the median range for the entering class, maybe GPA too to a lesser extent; but the admissions decision depends on far more than scores and GPA. On the forums, this seems to lead to overemphasizing the importance of the criteria that can be measured well, at the cost of underestimating the influence of other criteria that cannot be measured and compared as easily. For example, students A, B, and C are applying from my school and have a top 1% class rank and 34+ ACT; so no point in me applying with a top 3% class rank and 33 ACT. Or a student with a top 8% class rank and 32 ACT is academically unqualified and has no chance. It may turn out that students A, B, and C’s ECs/talents/awards/backgrounds/… are all typical HS level, while the other two are more impressive on a national level; resulting in students A, B. C having little chance of admission, while the other two have greater chance.

To me one of the main points of “chance me” threads is to try to get students thinking more seriously about what schools actually make sense for them.

Too many kids think that they want to go to an Ivy League school but actually have almost no clue what it means to wake up and find yourself in an Ivy League school, with an Ivy League sized list of homework to do and Ivy League paced classes to attend. Also, you see kids who say pretty much “I have great stats” (which is true) and “therefore I want to go to the very best computer science program, therefore I want an Ivy League school”, or “I have a 3.0 unweighted and once took at AP class and got a C so I want to go to MIT”.

Hopefully in some of these cases we can at least try to aim the kids back in the general direction of reality.

That is not always true. For some of the applicants the answer is clearly no way. And for some academic superstars and celebrities there is a greater than 50 per cent chance

^^^ You have a zero chance if you don’t apply. Our counselors are fairly good at encouraging kids to try while making sure that they understand that these schools ARE reaches for everyone. Not sure if they’re on CC or not, but they give pretty much the same advice: have a well-rounded list that includes reaches and safeties.


That’s a serious question.

Have we gotten to the point that we’re teaching kids not to be happy with positive outcomes for fear of missing out? Because that’s what this claim makes it sound like, and while there’s danger in swinging too strongly the opposite direction, that doesn’t mean that such an outlook on life is even remotely healthy.

I’m convinced most of the high stat “chance me” posts are from overachieving kids wanting affirmation and an ego stroke. Any of them can research the common data sets of the schools that interest them. But they want to be told they’re great.