More About Safeties!

<p>While this is the class of 05's prime decision time, I've also noticed a lot of 06's flocking to the boards. With this, I've been looking at lists and noticed very top heavy lists, often claiming that they are "prime canidates" and "if they apply to so many they're bound to get in somewhere". In lieu of this, I've decided to share a cautionary tale with a vibe we've heard a lot on this board.</p>

<p>Find "sure bets" schools to fall in love with. Fall in love with the upper tier ones later. </p>

<p>This story isn't actually about me, but my friend. He attends a different HS, the hardest HS in our competitive district to be exact. Much of his family has attended very elite schools and he was planning to follow in their footsteps. This friend of mine was ranked 24/460, had only a few b's, and had an SAT score in the mid 1500's. His SAT's were all 700+ and he's taken the hardest courses offered. On top of this, he volunteers regularly (I think he has about 800 hours), has been on the tennis team for four years, plays clarinet in one of the best bands in our state, has been on in the robotics club for four years, and has one other club (I can't remember). He began working on his essays summer of senior year and they were quite good. All in all, a strong canidate.</p>

<p>He applied to Harvard ED, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Dartmouth, Columbia, U Chicago (legacy), Berkeley (legacy), and then University of Washington. When I first saw the list, I asked what he'd do if he only got into Uw. He said, statistically, he'd get into one. His real dream was HYPSM and those were the ones he'd visited over the summer. In short, he'd fallen in love. He also loved U Chicago, and had visited that several times. He explained to me he didn't need a financial safety because his family was more than willing to foot a full tuition bill. In fact, he was the one urging me to "branch out" my list (Reed, Whitman were the "reaches" on mine) while I kept coming back with the fact I probably wasn't competitive enough to even try. Then, I watched as he spent incredible hours on his apps. He didn't give himself a chance to branch out or fall in love with any other schools, he simply didn't have the time for it. </p>

<p>So, ED came back. Deferred. He was a bit downtrodden, but immediatly began sending in extra recs and showing interest and everything else. He was upbeat, even after. Then, I sort of lost contact with him, he became so busy that he didn't have time to talk to me and I became busy with the play. So, finally, April rolls around. He never mentioned college to me and I began to get worried. I was excited because I got the Reed acceptance, and most of my classmates were excited to. Then, the other day, I got the other part of the story. </p>

<p>My friend was rejected at every single school he applied to, except the University of Washington. He hadn't even visited to the UW and isn't too excited about it. When he talks about next year, I can hear the strain in his voice. With his stats, there are lots of schools he could have gotten into. They would have been places he loved, places he was excited about, if only he gave them a chance. However, he got too caught up with the "elite" factor, fell in love with the top, and didn't bother with anything else.</p>

<p>So, in short, do not rely on statistics. College is too important to be left to "that one school I applied to that I didn't visit because I want an Ivy". Don't be close minded, there are so many wonderful schools. Don't get caught up in name or prestige, instead, find the school that fits who you are. And, as has been said numerous times, work from the bottom up. My friend discovered the randomness of college admissions the hard way.</p>

<p>Reaches and one safety--where in the heck were the match schools?</p>

<p>I would have thought that he would have gotten into one of his reaches with his stats, ECs, etc. I would like to have seen his apps.</p>

<p>What is he going to do? Take a gap year?</p>

<p>He's going to attend UW. He realizes that it is a good school with a really good reputation, even if the quality of life isn't that great (from what much of the people we know who attended have said). He's just not very excited about the prospect, although I can see he's trying to get a point where he is. </p>

<p>I wonder where his match schools were. I wish at the time I knew more about the process and could have urged him a bit stronger to apply somewhere more of a match.</p>

<p>great post whitney.</p>

<p>btw: The UC's eliminated legacy tips a long time ago. I beleive that I-dad mentioned Chicago doesn't credit legacies either.</p>

<p>Um, I don't think they were all reaches...Berkeley is a match-safety, unless he applied EECS (and if so, I wouldn't shed that many tears, because UW is ranked top 10 in undergrad CS). And I would easily define Columbia, Dartmouth, and Chicago as match-reaches with his stats (though Chicago is a bit weird) and rather remarkable extra-curriculars. HPSM are reaches for almost everyone, so yeah, but your friend was definitely within reach. In short, his results are extremely surprising, and this is definitely not something any applicant should expect. Maybe his essays were just written the night before.</p>

<p>sorry, amused, but I disagree with your points. Berkeley is not a match/safety for even in-state residents, unless they are: first generation to go to college, low income, from a low performing school. This year, Berkeley rejected 10,000 apps with a gpa greater than 4.1.</p>

<p>I would also suggest that any school with a acceptance rate less than 40% cannot be a match either, for top 5% kids. If you dig thru the data for these schools (and Berkeley), Vals have a ~50% chance of acceptance, Sals have a ~35% chance....the remainder drops to less than 10% once you factor in recruited athletes, URM's, nationally-ranked clarinet and oboe players, tennis 'captains', Intel-Westinghouse winners, legacies, etc.</p>

<p>The QOL around UW can be great. Seatle has everything and most of it is close to UW. The main thing would be to get into the Honors program and don't look back.</p>

<p>This post is not even just about safeties (the fact that he had just one and it was one he was not interested in), but this student had NO match schools. Sorry, but the schools on his list would be considered REACHES for any student given the state of elite admissions today (the very slim/low admit rates and the lottery nature where even highly qualified kids are turned away). The fact that he had NO Match schools is the quandry here and what I have seen time and again on many kids' posted college lists. Yes, a student with his stats should be able to get into one of those schools but because it is so unpredictable at those schools (they turn away kids with 1600 and who are ranked first in the class!), they cannot be counted on with any decent odds, sorry. I have a kid who had great qualifications but in no way did she count on getting into one of the reach schools, though we thought she had as good a chance as anyone and that at least one would come through (more actually did) but she certainly had match schools and safety schools. Her safeties were not easy schools either. Also, she was not dead set on it having to be her reach schools. Honestly, two of her match schools, she liked better than one of her reach schools. </p>

<p>This is a sad story to me. Yes, he will get a good education but it is sad to see someone go off to a school that he is not excited about and that feels like a consolation prize (to him). There are so many schools that he could have gotten into that were between UW and the schools on his list, that would have provided him with the challenge and atmosphere he might have been psyched about. </p>

<p>Amused, there is no way to call Dartmouth, Columbia or even UChicago a match/reach. Yes, a highly qualified student might have a profile that "matches" these very competitive schools, but the odds of getting in, are STILL a "reach" because of numbers, not cause of not being good enough. People need to fully understand the current state of elite college admissions if they are going to enter the game. You might have what it takes to get to the gate but it does not always mean you will get in the gate. Better to be fully cognizant of that when making the college list and to find schools that are a match with your stats but also have a higher acceptance rate in terms of the odds game. Makes logical and statistical sense. I don't quite get how kids have these lists but I assume it is due to a lack of knowledge of today's elite college situation because it is not like it maybe once was where you might assume that a kid with outstanading credentials could OF COURSE get in. I mean I have folks in my community, even TEACHERS AND GCs who thought my kid could get in ANYWHERE she wanted and WE had to tell THEM, AIN'T so.....not cause she was not qualified but because we were well versed on elite college admissions. This is something that needs reiterating here a lot and I am glad for the OP for posting this boy's situation and I HOPE that any kids (or parents) reading it, heeds the message....</p>

<p>Ideally, ANY student, even a val with a 4.0uw and a kid with SATs in the 1500s and all that jazz, should have approx. 40% reach schools (these can include schools where the stats appear to be a match but due to acceptance rates are a lottery ticket), 40% match/ballpark schools, and 20% safety schools. Safety schools for the very top student need not mean the local state university (though nothing wrong with this option) but merely schools that he/she could definitely get into that are worth going to for that student. Some kids' safety schools, in other words, might be another kid's match (or even reach) schools. I will give as an example, that my own kid had Lehigh and Conn College as safeties which were not easy schools to get into but we felt confident about her admissions to these (and were correct) and she liked them very much and put as much into those apps and visits as her reach schools (important!). I'll add that she was offered a full ride and Honors College at our state univ. to which she had no intention of applying as she did not wish to go there and thus it was not the best safety for her and she found ones she liked better.</p>

<p>Susan</p>

<p>I agree with bluebayou. Based on what I've seen on this board for this year, it's hard for me to consider any school to be a safety or even a match if it has a low acceptance rate. With those schools, it clearly appears to be a buyers market. The friend of the OP had solid stats, but I'm sure that HYPSM, Berkely and Chicago rejected a lot of kids with very similar stats. Granted, they probably accepted a number of other kids with less stellar stats, but as bluebayou notes that would include URM's, athletes, musicians with better credentials, etc.</p>

<p>Now, if this guy really doesn't like UW, there's no reason why he can't transfer. With his stats, and another year to take a more in-depth look at all of the wonderful schools that should have been his matches the first time around, I'm sure he could find a great transfer school. </p>

<p>Or he might fall in love with UW.</p>

<p>Whitney - great post. I hope you are going to/have already cross-post on the appropriate kids' threads - admissions/selection/search.</p>

<p>OK I could see your contention with calling any of the Ivies or UChicago a match-reach (even though I disagree), but Berkeley, being a state school, is much more numbers based then any of the other schools. Even if it wasn't, look at this kids other factors. 700 (!) hours of volunteer work, hardest course schedule possible, accomplished musician, student athlete. I think we can all agree that this is an above average applicant (maybe even student) at Berkeley. So maybe he slipped through the admissions cracks (or the OP isn't telling us about something important, like a criminal record/bad essays). I still refuse to believe this happens regularly at anywhere near justifying concern. And please, the University of Washington is one of the best state schools (just behind whatever top tier you choose to subscribe to). I also live near Seattle and I know a lot of kids don't want to leave, because it's such a nice place to live. Thus they turned down Berkeley, UCLA, and other schools of that ilk. This kid will be fine so save your tears for someone who didn't apply to any safeties.</p>

<p>amused:</p>

<p>sorry, no tears here for anyone applying to only reaches. I too, believe U-Dub is a great school, and one of the most beautiful campuses in the Pac-10. </p>

<p>But, you need to remember, that Berkeley (and UCLA) turn down thousands of bwrk's -- well over 35% of the acceptees are low income and the first generation to go to college, so the odds for a middle class, suburban kid decline signficantly. Several kids with similar stats to the OP's friend (in the top 20 at highly compeititive in-state HS) were rejected by UCLA and/or Berkeley. Those essays do count under Comprehensive Review.</p>

<p>
[quote]
So maybe he slipped through the admissions cracks (or the OP isn't telling us about something important, like a criminal record/bad essays). I still refuse to believe this happens regularly at anywhere near justifying concern.

[/quote]
Agreed about the regularly part. This kind of outcome is obviously an outlier. The problem is when it's your kid who's the outlier with no acceptance they can commit to in their hearts and when you know it's partly your fault for a less than intelligent list they applied to.</p>

<p>Another thing is that on these forums, when people list their "stats", well, that is all they are, stats. An application is far more than a list of numbers. Yes, numbers play a big role but most who apply to the most elite colleges HAVE the numbers so those alone are not telling enough. You HAVE to have the numbers just to get to the gate. The other parts, also count and we are NOT seeing the full application here. And even IF the rest of the application is stellar, it is no guarantee at schools with low admit rates. But for the sake of the argument, we are not even seeing these other components. We have not seen his resume, awards, recs, essays, and so forth. </p>

<p>As a side note, not until I came to this forum, had I ever heard of kids defining an activity (mostly referring now to community service) in terms of how many hours they had accrued. This is a new concept to me. My kids have no such "number of hours for community service" anywhere on any document. For some reason, this "hour count" seems like a really big deal on some of the student posts of "my stats". I dunno but hours is not that big a deal without knowing just what the person accomplished and so forth. And while 700 hours sounds like a lot, over four years of high school, isn't that perhaps 4 hours per week? Is this SO amazing for an EC activity? I dunno but I am just thinking of ONE single activity in my own kids' lives....let's say the musical....on a typical week, that is 13 hours per week. Dance classes? 12 hours per week. A varsity sport? 16 hours per week. And these are not their only activities either. I don't think an activity that is four hours per week is THAT amazing. But regardless, I never thought of the worth of an activity based on the number of hours involved. The kid's role in the activity, the nature of the activity, the achievement in the activity...that is what I would need to know. That is but ONE example of not having the total picture here. I'm not knocking this particular student because he sounds highly qualified but merely saying that we can't make judgement calls on kids' "stats" without having the total picture in front of us.</p>

<p>I think there should be only two categories: Sure Bets and Other.</p>

<p>The concept of Reach/Match/Safety applies for the average and sub-average students. The schools where these students enroll have high acceptance rates, and someone with stats at the class average is likely to be admitted. But there's no such thing as a school with an average SAT of 1400 or 1500 that accepts 70% of applicants, so there is no such thing as a match school for students in this range. All those GPA/SAT averages actually UNDERSTATE the differences in the difficulty of admission.</p>

<p>Actually, I think from what Whitney said, one problem this student may have had was class rank. Yes, he was in the top 5% of his class -- but the elites are looking for kids who are valedictorians, or close. Keep in mind that many of the 23 higher-ranked kids at his very competitive high school probably also applied to HYPSM. I don't agree with the high premium on class rank - but I do believe it is significant. </p>

<p>And Amused, you are dead wrong about Berkeley -- it is extremely hard for in-staters to get in these days, and exceptionally difficult for an out-of-state applicant. I wish it was different - I was on the Berkeley campus today - it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and I was thinking about how much I would love for my daughter to attend Berkeley -- but I would never tell her to view Cal as anything other than a very big reach. We're Californians, so I'll probably insist that she mark off the "Berkeley" box as well as 2 or 3 others on the UC application form... but Berkeley is definitely a reach school for any out of stater. Legacy means nothing - it's basically a very big strike against the applicant whose return address is not in California, and it takes a lot to overcome that.</p>

<p>my niece did the very same thing
IB program great scores and stats
Ivies and UW - and at least she applied to Colgate
Only was accepted at Colgate and UW
Sadly enough she didn't learn from her experience
Is graduating from Colgate PhiBetaKappa MagnacumLaude
However did was not accepted at any graduate program she applied to
I suspect she applied to too few with too small of programs
She doesn't have any idea what to do next</p>

<p>I don't know if any schools still area accepting applications but there are a few threads of schools with rolling admissions
I can understand if your friend is from Seattle why he doesn't want to attend UW
It is such a behemoth of a school- that for students in the area- there woudn't be much sense of a different environment
My daughter didn't even apply and we didn't even look at it- even though I agree it is a good school for some kids and has some great dpts.
But still- that is hard
BUt it shoudl be about what is the best fit for you- not what your parents and peers would be most excited about to see on your rearwindow</p>

<p>


This is a brilliant observation. This post should be required reading for any high-achieving student as they ponder their application choices.</p>

<p>We see an SAT at 75% and automatically start to think that that is a 75% admittance rate. For a school with only a 10% admittance rate overal that obviously isn't true. That is why I wish the colleges would publish the percentage of applicants admitted with a 1600/1500/1400 etc. That would give students a realistic idea of their chances. Knowing that only 20-30% of 1500's get in makes it alot clearer. </p>

<p>I know we made this mistake with my S, though 50% put him in the pool. Tried to adjust with my D, aimed for 75%. She did fine several good choices and is happy to be going to Kenyon but some surprises as well.</p>

<p>Maybe I missed it, whitney, but - where was his GC??? They're usually pretty savvy about elite college admissions in competitive school districts. Sad that this excellent student so misjudged his list. You're right - there are many less prestigious but still outstanding schools where he'd have been accepted in a heartbeat. </p>

<p>He may fall in love with UW (and I hope he does!) because it's a terrific school. If he can't let go of the idea of a dream school, he sounds as if he'd be a strong transfer candidate. Let us know what happens, and thanks for the interesting thread!</p>