What Are the Odds? Know Your Probability of Acceptance

images by Dartmouth College, Adrogo Academy, Children's Book Council, and College Confidential {links http://now.dartmouth.edu/2011/01/dartmouth-receives-record-number-applications-class-2015, http://adrogoacademy.com/college-admissions-services.html, http://www.cbcbooks.org/harry-potters-hogwarts-acceptance-letter-to-be-auctioned/#.Vmx4MEorLIU, http://www.collegeconfidential.com/admit/new-common-application-essay-prompts/}

images by Dartmouth College, Adrogo Academy, Children’s Book Council, and College Confidential {links at end of post}

I recently found this fine bit of advice on the William and Mary English Department’s site:

My correspondent Michael Blum advises: “Decide where you want to apply. If you can, visit campuses and talk to students already in the programs you are thinking about. Then pick four schools you have about a 30% chance of being accepted to, two schools you shouldn’t be turned away from (barring leprosy), and one school you’d only get into if you had the foresight to make a pact with Satan.” –Professor Adam Potkay

This was actually on a page for graduate school admission tips (I may or may not already be looking at grad schools…), but all of it is equally applicable for high school college hunters!

Once you have found schools to which you might apply (if you haven’t read my post on how to search for colleges, click here!), you need to decide which ones to actually apply to. Though you could fill out applications and write essays for every single school of the two dozen you think you may be interested in, is it worth the trouble? Senior year is crazy enough on its own, so you certainly don’t want to be so busy preparing for college that you miss some of the best times in your high school career.

I strongly recommend following the model proposed in the above quote: apply to a few schools where you have about a 30% chance of being accepted, apply to two where you are sure to get in, and apply to at least one dream school in spite the preposterous odds (after all, they have to accept somebody). Applying to a range of schools will guarantee that you get in somewhere you will be very happy.

How do you figure out how likely it is that you will accepted? What affects the likelihood of being accepted? What happens if you aren’t accepted?

Gauging Admissions Probability

all the fandoms….image by know your meme {link to http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/508058-troll-quotes}

  • Acceptance Rates: Colleges often give acceptance rates in a percentage of students accepted out of all who applied. For example, last year, Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio, received 22,807 applicants, of those they admitted 8,271. To get the acceptance rate, they divide 22, 807 by 8,271, which is 36%. So, roughly speaking, ignoring all other factors, anyone who applied to Case Western had about a 36% chance of getting in. Remember, the acceptance rate changes with the number of applicants, and it doesn’t reflect any of the personal factors that go into admissions!
  • Class Profiles: Class profiles are a great way to see what kind of people have the best chance at getting into a school. Some schools look for high test scores, others look for lots of extracurricular activities, and some place more value on class rank. By looking at the breakdown of median test scores, GPAs, etc… you can see how your persona; profile compares to those of admitted students. For an example from Miami University, click here.

What Affects Acceptance?

  • In-State vs Out-of-State: Public schools generally accept a higher percentage of in-state students per the requirements of the state government. However, due to state school money-grabbing, some schools seem to be offering more spots to out-of-state students who will be paying higher tuition than in-state students, according to this article from The Daily Beast.
  • Early Decision vs. Regular Decision: For many private schools, early decision applicants have a much higher chance of getting in. This means, if Yale is your very top choice, you would never give Harvard a sideways glance and Brown just makes you sick, apply to Yale early decision, and you will have much better odds of getting in. On the other hand, if you would be happy to go to Yale, Harvard, or Brown or a nice state school, early decision may not be for you. You can only apply to one school early decision because checking that box means that if they accept you, you will go there no matter what. If you are sure of where you want to go and would like to improve your chances as much as possible, by all means, apply early decision; if you have a few favorites, then apply to all of them regular decision.
  • Legacy: Legacy students are those whose parents or family members have gone to the same school as them. For example, a lot of Ivy League schools will admit high percentages of children of alumni. Legacy generally plays a bigger role in admissions at Ivy League schools and other prestigious private schools.
  • First-Generation: First-Generation students are those whose parents and grandparents did not go to college. Colleges like to seek out First-Generation students, and they are often eligible for more scholarships and financial aid.
  • The Application: Of course. Each school places more value on different parts of the application, so browse the website and admissions blogs of each school you hope to apply to and find out what they are looking for!

What Happens If You Aren’t Accepted?

If you aren’t accepted by a school, you will either be denied any chance of admission for that academic year, or you will be offered a place on their wait-list. Being put on the wait-list may seem like the same thing as being rejected, but it certainly is not. Schools always accept many more people than they think will actually enroll, because they know that most students are considering other schools too. For example, Case Western Reserve may have offered spots to 8,271 students, but less than 2,000 people actually enrolled. As people turn down one school to enroll at another, spots open up for those on the wait-list. If you really want to go to the school, stay on the wait-list, knowing that there is a possibility you will still be accepted.

image by urch {link to http://www.urch.com/forums/phd-economics/139134-admissions-memes.html}

If you applied to that school that you have always wanted to go to, but you didn’t get in, you may just have to shrug it off and go to your second choice, unfortunately. You can get a good education anywhere, if you are a determined and dedicated scholar. However, don’t forget that if you go to any school and are truly unhappy there, you can always transfer. I have met a lot of people on campus who transferred here from other schools after their first semester or year, and I have met people who decided to transfer away from William and Mary after their first week. The sheer number of colleges and universities in the world basically guarantees that there is one just right for you.

In Sum,

Though there are lots of ways to consider the likelihood of getting into a college—which you should consider when making your application plan—many aspects are still left up to chance. You never know what may happen, but the very best thing you can do is apply to a range of schools, and present the finest work you can possibly do on your applications. In my case, I was wait-listed by one of the schools I was sure I would get into, which was rather frightening at first, but a week later, I was accepted into my dream program! Colleges know what they are looking for, and their thought processes often seem incomprehensible, but you won’t know if they want you until you apply! Put your best foot forward, and remember, as John Lennon said, “In the end, everything will be okay; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”


Image links:  {links http://now.dartmouth.edu/2011/01/dartmouth-receives-record-number-applications-class-2015, http://adrogoacademy.com/college-admissions-services.html, http://www.cbcbooks.org/harry-potters-hogwarts-acceptance-letter-to-be-auctioned/#.Vmx4MEorLIU, http://www.collegeconfidential.com/admit/new-common-application-essay-prompts/}

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