Is it possible my D will be rejected by all her schools?

<p>Hi, I’ve been lurking around these forums for a while and have finally decided to post. After reading andi’s heartbreaking story about her son who was not accepted into any of his schools, I started wondering whether the same could happen to my D, a soon-to-be hs junior. Although it’s not a common occurrence, every year we hear about a local student who is faced with this unfortunate situation.</p>

<p>I’ve come up with a formula, which I dub the Safe Slate Formula, to help students reduce their chances of being rejected by every school on their college slate. It’s such a simple formula that I’m sure someone else has already stated it, but I haven’t seen it discussed in these forums so I’m going to present it here:</p>

<p>Safe Slate Formula</p>

<li><p>Calculate the rejection rate for each college you’re applying to:
college<em>rejection</em>rate = 1.00 - college<em>acceptance</em>rate</p></li>
<li><p>Multiply all the rejection rates together. The result is the probability of rejection by all your schools:
slate<em>rejection</em>rate = college<em>rejection</em>rate<em>1 * . . . * college</em>rejection<em>rate</em>N</p></li>

<p>For example, suppose your college slate consists of the following schools (acceptance / rejection rates in parentheses):</p>

<p>**Harvard<a href=“10%%20/%2090%”>/b</a> reach
**Yale<a href=“11%%20/%2089%”>/b</a> reach
**Princeton<a href=“10%%20/%2090%”>/b</a> reach
**Stanford<a href=“13%%20/%2087%”>/b</a> reach
**Haverford<a href=“30%%20/%2070%”>/b</a> match
**Colby<a href=“34%%20/%2066%”>/b</a> match
**Kenyon<a href=“46%%20/%2054%”>/b</a> safety</p>

<p>Multiplying together, your chances of being rejected by all 7 schools is 16%<a href="=%20.90%20%20.89%20%20.90%20*%20.87%20*%20.70%20*%20.66%20*%20.54">/b</a>. That means you have a 1 in 6 chance of receiving no acceptances. Each person has a different comfort level but I would say 16% is way too high. Most people should aim for 5% or lower. I would add a school like Denison, which has an acceptance rate of 68%, decreasing your chances of total rejection to 5%, about 1 in 20.</p>

<p>It is tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that your chances of admission into any one of these schools are higher than average. For the most selective schools, I would say your chances are actually lower than the published acceptance rates unless you are a legacy or athletic recruit or have won a prestigious national or international honor (e.g. Intel Finalist, Olympic medalist, soloist with New York Philharmonic). For a less selective school, if your application is much stronger than the typical student’s, perhaps you can figure that your chances of admission there are much higher than average. Still, there are enough instances where safety schools reject top students to improve their yield that I wouldn’t count on an acceptance into any selective school.</p>

<p>For my D, we’re currently looking at the following schools: Stanford (13%), MIT (16%), Harvey Mudd (40%), U Chicago (40%), Swarthmore (24%), and Carleton (30%). Although this college slate includes a couple of not-too-selective schools, it produces a rejection rate of 14%, not low enough for me to sleep at night. If we add one safety, Grinnell (63%), the rate drops to 5%. Adding another safety, St. Olaf (75%), drops the rate to 1.3%, as close to a safe slate as we can get.</p>

<p>The Safe Slate Formula is not perfect but I think it’s a good tool to use if you’re applying mostly to selective schools and wondering how many safety schools to add to your list.</p>

<p>...except college decisions aren't independent events?</p>

<p>That is a clever way to calculate it. I have never done that but have looked at admit rates as a factor in developing a list of reach, match, safety schools. I think your formula has merits. Thanks for sharing.</p>

<p>Hi keemun,
Welcome to CC! Please don't take this the wrong way, but why isn't your flagship State U on your list? I think to really be able to sleep at night, one has to apply to at least one college that is a TRUE safety (80% admit rate), hopefully one that has rolling admissions. That way, you have at least one acceptance in the bag, come November or December and you don't have to sweat it too much:-) Take care.</p>

<p>Listen to Amused. This calculation is meaningless. It assumes the rejection probabilities are independent, but of course they are highly corellated. So the formula is simply wrong. Would that it were that simple. </p>

<p>The challenge is in discovering the rejection probability for a given school, FOR A GIVEN STUDENT. The average rejection rate for a school, across all applicants, does not answer this question. </p>

<p>There are kids for whom the rejection probability at Kenyon would be as high as at Harvard (i.e. for some, nearly 100%) and others where the admission probability for Harvard may be as high as at Kenyon, and near 100% ( some Intel award winning, math olympiad champ, olympic athlete, etc)</p>

<p>If you are non-legacy, non-URM, non-athlete, "middle-class" applicant (family income in 35%-95% percentile - roughly $45,000-$150,000/year), I calculate the odds of admission at Ivies/Stanford, etc. at roughly half the overall admissions rate, meaning the odds of being rejected at all the schools above would be closer to 1 in 3.</p>

<p>Keemun, I have never known anyone personally who was rejected by all of his schools. I have known many, many kids who were rejected by all of the schools they really thought about attending. Your list is fine, but I would recommend adding a few true safety schools or applying to a school EA to have in your pocket early in the process. Applying to a schools such as Goucher which fits the spread nicely or a your state school (say, Pitt if you are in PA) and getting an early answer would make the rest of the process pure gravy. As some of the posters have commented, if there is some issue with your child's app that you may not even be aware of, you can end up in none of the schools. The percentages are averages and not really custom made for every child. The problem is that you do not know what the real chances are for your kid because they are really either 100% or 0. As Mini says, for an unhooked applicant, the chances of getting into any of those lottery ticket schools is a lot lower than the published stats. Also if you are applying RD, the numbers plumment as well. The best way to work with this actuality is to have a layer of safety schools so that your D could have some choices if the worst occurs.</p>

<p>I agree with afan. Unless I'm missing something, plugging a 4.0 GPA/2400 SAT student into your formula would give the same result as a 2.5/1400 student.</p>

<p>Keemum, your guidance office can give you better stats since they are for kids from YOUR school, not the anonymous stats from out there in the universe. A kid from our HS would be in bad shape using your formula... certains colleges have a track record with our school, other colleges regularly reject even the top kids who easily get into less competitive schools, you just don't know.</p>

<p>You also can't use the admissions stats for small colleges in the way that they might be predictive for large uni's. A school with a Freshman class of 600 isn't admitting a boat load of harpsichordists or several dozen gymnasts-- just not happening. They also need a few debaters and a couple of wrestlers, and you have no way of knowing what the rest of the applicant pool looks like, regardless of your kids stats.</p>

<p>And finally, don't forget that if there's a flaw in the application ( a less than enthusiastic recommendation, an error in the transcript, a poorly written essay) it's going to work in the exact same way at every single school, admissions stats be damned. I wouldn't sleep at night with your slate of schools--not because of the probabilities, since I think your calculations are meaningless, but because your D might not be happy with her choices come April.</p>

<p>If she really loves Stanford, will Carleton do it for her? If the urban environment at Chicago excites her, will she really want to head to Grinnell? Maybe she will-- but for a lot of kids your list wouldn't do the job. We know lots of kids who have applied to MIT-- they've also applied to Penn, RPI, U. Rochester, JHU, BU, Michigan, to name a few places which have strong engineering/technical programs. I don't know a lot of those kids who'd be happy in a rural environment if MIT doesn't come through... stats notwithstanding.</p>

if the rejections are not independent, you have to assume they are conditioned on each other = collusion. </p>

I have been doing this for a while on the Chances forum, to point up a risky strategy. I usually mention mini's finaid factor (see above). It is a very rough estimate, but show makes you stare the rejection rates in the face. I did my son's retroactively and it came out to about 5%.</p>

<p>Blosssom, I think like you do when I cluster schools for kids, but I have found that their minds do not work that way. When my kids put their lists together, the schools were as disparate as can be. How someone can like NYU and Davidson, I cannot possibly conceive. But that is how their lists went. The only problem I see with the OP's D's list is that it is top heavy. A trio of safeties layering it would do it well. Perhaps a cluster of some of the Ohio schools would do it.</p>

many hs's (my son's included) don't have admissions stats - or have them only for instate schools. This evaluation is extremely rough, but gives a numerical starting point. </p>

<p>Also, a poorly written essay will be less critical at a less selective school.</p>

<p>My kid's final list included schools in the boonies (Carleton, Bowdoin), the 'burbs (Allegheny, Brandeis) and the city (UChicago, Case). The common threads were majors of interest and intellectual liveliness.</p>


Of course, that would be ideal if we could calculate the rejection probability for a given student. But that is a much, much more difficult task. From what I've seen on these forums, students tend to vastly overestimate their chances of admittance into HYPS. Unless a student is a legacy, URM or recruited athlete, s/he should assume his or her own rejection probability is the average one or worse.

Yes, of course, and you should adjust the rejection rates accordingly. The acceptance/rejection rates apply to the typical applicant. If you're much worse than average, then you would need to make adjustments.

There are very, very few students who can expect 46% of acceptance into Harvard.

Thanks for your welcome. Actually, it is. My D will certainly apply to our State U. We just don't want her to go there. Our professor friends have told us enough stories about the anti-intellectual, heavy binge drinking atmosphere at the school that we would prefer to send her to a better school.</p>


I guess I wasn't clear enough in my original post about who this rough-estimate formula was for. The formula is intended to scare the most optimistic, most academically qualified students who are applying mostly to the most selective schools. Many do not include enough safety schools in their slate. The formula assumes you're a typical applicant. If you're a weak student, of course you have to adjust accordingly. If you're a strong student you need to allow for a worst case scenario. In my D's case, she's applying to our state university, just in case.</p>

<p>I believe Denison's acceptance rate this year is below 40%; becoming very popular.</p>


Thanks for your comments. Since my D is still a sophomore, we haven't met with our hs guidance counselor yet about college admissions. I agree that we'll get more accurate data about acceptance chances once we talk to her.</p>

<p>The schools I mentioned make up a very preliminary list. I fully expect names to be added and dropped in the next year and a half. What these schools have in common are strong math and physical science departments. My D has not yet expressed a preference for urban vs. rural or small vs. midsized college. Once we visit a few campuses, I hope she'll have an opinion about what type of school will suit her best.</p>

<p>I stopped trying to figure this out a long time ago. M S was accepted at his very selective reaches and wait-listed at his matches (accepted at his safeties).</p>

<p>Keemum, we actually calculated something similar to your slate, for DD's "match" schools, and yes it does work, but I'm not sure it works for Harvard.</p>

<p>If you can assume that your possibility of admission is 50-50 for each of X schools, then you can do a simple probability calculation to determine the probability of either being rejected by all X schools or being accepted at all schools. If my math is correct, for 4 schools, the probability would be 1 of 16 chance.</p>

<p>The difference in what you did, and what we did, is that I think it is very difficult to say for a given student that their probability of Harvard is 50-50. Throw in a "true safety" to your list, and you might bring the overall calculation to 50-50 for each, so that the math would apply, but in reality, you might still be 1in10 at Harvard, but even money at Colby and Kenyon, so that for the scenario, you are unlikely (1 in 16) of striking out, but you most likely will only get into colby, Kenyon and the safety - and that result is no different than picking reach, match and safety schools.</p>

<p>What we found the calculation useful for was peace of mind, and knowing when to stop. My daughter used a reach-safety strategy, because her stats were just high enough to put her into statistical "match" territory at most any school - after a brief love affair with Yale, she decide the big names were not what she was looking for, and concentrated on the AWS type schools. After these calculations and lots of visits, she felt comfortable applying to schools with 30% or less acceptance, plus a statistical safety, plus the local big state Uni. By the way, none of us were excited by the prospect of years 13-16 of her high school, which is what state uni would be, but she made a wise observation - if there was an emergency in the family, financial, medical, etc, she wanted that ultimate fallback safety close to home.</p>

<p>I hope you used that group of schools as just an example, because they are kind of different. Also, I think that the randomness of admissions decreases the further you get away from HYPS - how far you have to go depends on the solidity of the academic profile.</p>

<p>Keemun, the point of the safety school is not to give your kid something to do come September. The point is to find a place where she can thrive and be happy if she doesn't get into Stanford et al. So-- to me, throwing an app into a school where you don't want her to go (or for most people, where the kid doesn't want to go, or where you won't be able to afford the tuition, or whatever....) isn't much of a solution.</p>

<p>Why not identify a few places that you can all get excited about, and where she is virtually an auto-admit? We know strong science/math kids who have been happy at Rutgers, U. Missouri at Rolla, SUNY Binghamton, Penn State honors college, U Maryland, etc. Can give more suggestions if we knew more about your daughter. Our kid did not apply to our state school-- geographically undesireable (i.e. rural), not enough of what he was looking for academically, but we had a list of schools which do enough of an "auto-admit" based on the stats that we knew he'd be accepted, even with a bad essay or whatever.</p>