Luck factors for getting accepted?!

Hey? I’m a HS senior in an east asian country. Currently i have been searching schools and attending to their virtual tours & information sessions. I have few questions to ask from u guys!

  1. Is attenting to their virtual events a luck factor? Do admission officers check you from their mailing list during ED/RD?
  2. Are there any other luck factors?
  3. My stats and extracurriculars aren’t good as people’s in here. Should i apply to my target school as ED?

Thank you answering my questions:)

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Attending virtual sessions and signing up for emails and reading them are ways of demonstrating interest, it has nothing to do with luck. Even if the school doesn’t track interest/participation in virtual programs, doing virtual sessions are helpful when writing “why us” essays.

If you have a clear first choice school, it is affordable, and you don’t have to compare financial aid offers, it can make sense to apply ED.

What schools are on your list? Do you need financial aid?

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Attending virtual events and signing up for email isn’t luck. It’s a deliberate message by you to the college that you are interested.

If indeed there’s a luck factor, there is nothing you can do control for it. A luck factor might be that your essay was about making banana bread with your grandma and your admissions officer also loved to make banana bread with her grandma, so maybe your app gets a tiny little bump. That works both ways though.

Maybe your admissions officer had a mean grandma who forced her to make banana bread. The admissions officer puts your app in the deny pile. THAT would be bad luck, but it’s nothing you could predict.

ED is the ultimate expression of interest. Yes, if the school offers ED, go for it. Understand though that unless your grades and everything else aligns with what they look for in their applicants, ED is not going to get you in ahead of someone who is more qualified.


Here is my school list. I would love to get suggestions.

  1. Pomona College
  2. Swarthmore College
  3. Brown university-thinking about ED
  4. Bowdoin College
  5. Haverford College
  6. Hamilton College
  7. Colgate University
  8. Vanderbilt university
  9. Barnard college
  10. Case Western Reserve University
  11. Occidental college
    Yes, i need 100% financial aid.

If you are thinking about ED to Brown, you should have Amherst College on your list. They are one of only seven schools that are need blind for Internationals, and give full aid if you are looking for it. They are similar to Brown as they have no core curriculum.

Of course, 100% full aid is given if it determined by their FA office that if your family circumstances merit that.

Based on your interest in Brown as a tentative ED choice, perhaps add Skidmore or others from this site:

Applying to any school beyond your objectively determined level wouldn’t serve you well, in my opinion. Be sure to compare the student-body profiles you will find on Common Data Sets to your own academic achievements.


Those are all very hard schools to get into, even for domestic full pay students. By all means, apply! But overall, your best “luck” will come from applying to schools where you are bringing something to the community they really value and aren’t seeing a lot in the rest of their applicant pool.

So if one of the things you see yourself bringing is very high academic achievement, target schools where your stats are above those of the school. It’s far easier for a school to allocate funds from those dedicated to international students to one who is likely to be a high flyer in the classroom than to one who looks like the rest of the student body.


All of the schools on your list are reaches, many have very low acceptance rates and needing financial aid adds another level of selectivity. Certainly apply to some schools in the US, but 11 will require much time and effort and it’s imperative you demonstrate a fit for each school. For these schools you need to have high academic stats, and truly be one of the top students in your school and country…is that the case?

There are no schools in the US that will be considered a safety. Do you have a safety in your country?

You say you need 100% financial aid…is your family not able to contribute to your college costs? Even if you receive a full ride (tuition, fees, room and board) you will have to pay for travel to and from the US several times per year, as well as incidentals, and in some cases health insurance. Is that doable?


I second this comment.

If you are at or below what you assess to be the average accepted student, then for ED I would aim for a school where ED might make a difference. Using ED at Brown because you don’t feel you have a chance in RD…likely means you’re wasting your opportunity to use ED. Brown (and a few others on your list) have acceptance rates under 10%.

The post from @merc81 regarding schools similar to Brown was actually sort of what I was thinking. Of the list, maybe Hamilton would be a good ED school? If the stats aren’t there for Hamilton…Skidmore might be a great alternative.


@CottonTales not for international students…unless that has changed since this was written…

“ We are committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for all eligible undergraduates as determined by Brown’s Office of Financial Aid.

Are you need-blind for international applicants? We do not offer need-blind admission for international applicants .”

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I was referring to Amherst’s International aid @thumper1 ,not Brown

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People don’t get admitted by chance (luck) to the schools on your list. As an international applicant, you would need to have stats well above those of the average accepted US student for these schools. And if you need financial aid, very few schools provide that for international students, plus they are highly selective.

You can get better advice form here regarding your chances of admission by posting your actual stats, meaning your scores on standardized tests, your GPA and class rank (and from what sort of high school), your extracurricular activities, and your awards. In general, students accepted from abroad to top US schools with full financial aid awards are the top students in their countries.

Amherst used to be in my list, but i came to a conclusion that this is not the school I would be happy to attend for 4 years. Thank you for replying:)

I afraid I’m not one of the top students in my country but in my school.

There are safety schools in my country, but i will not attent to them.

Yes. I will make it doable.

One of the reasons why i’m considering to apply to Brown as ED is Brown students can get some of RISD’s classes. I’m going to major as Art, so taking RISD’s classes would be helpful.

Yeah, I am searching school that are similar to Brown. Also i liked Swathmore a lot.

Thank you for replying.

I’m planning to apply as test optional, but i will take Duolingo English Test. As a trial test, it was 125-145, which is 103-119 in TOEFL.

My grades are all A’s with one B and one C. Not sure what it would sound like in weighted GPA.

I dont have awards except bronze medal from biology olympiad in my country.

My activity list so far :

  1. Art club founder, a president and a teacher.
  2. Environmental project that I was a captain of the team.
  3. Internship at new start up as a chief marketing officer and a course maker.
  4. Volunteer in start up company as a marketing manager and a web/application developer & UI/UX designer.
  5. Marketing manager at non-profit club
  6. Helped to my family’s farm
  7. Volleyball team member for 4 years (I stopped playing it since 10th grade so it low priority)
  8. Babysitter /paid job/
  9. Operation manager in a project (it lasted for a month so low priority)
    (Did not write specifics bc i thought that would be unnecessary)

I have been thinking that my extracurriculars and essays would be spike of my application.

Are the B and C on the British scale (O Levels, iGCSEs…) or the US scale?

Your rationale for Brown makes sense, but be aware that it awards very few full scholarships to internationals.

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I don’t usually do chances, but your ECs are nothing that would be considered a “spike”.

You need to cast a broader net of affordable schools, and understand that you might just be attending one of your sure things in your own country.

Apply and see. The acceptance rates for international students are lower than the overall acceptance rates at most colleges.

And how exactly will you make the finances work?

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This is shooting yourself in the foot. Do you want to attend college or not? If you do, you need a school somewhere that you can definitely get into and that you can definitely afford. As an international student who is not one of the best in the country and needs full aid, that severely limits your options.

It’s great that you are ambitious, but the reality is that what you seek is something that many international students seek. There is very little money to go around for foreign students seeking 100% financial aid at a US college.

Of colleges that offer full FA to international students, try Skidmore, Davidson and Vassar. They are a tiny bit less selective than almost all the others. Can you pay the application fees for these colleges without causing financial hardship to your family?