Admissions Results Analysis
During the first few weeks of April the press around the world has been buzzing with post-mortem perspectives on U.S. college admissions. First, the news came out that the Ivy League and other competitive colleges had received a record number of applications — leading to even lower rates of admission among these already highly selective institutions. In 2012 Harvard accepted 5.9% of its applicant pool, this year it was 5.7%. The same is true for almost all colleges ranked within the top 10.
This news of lower admissions rates, in turn, spawned a flurry of speculation about what it means, whether it is fair, and ultimately, will we ever know what it actually takes to get into these selective colleges. Several observers, including renowned journalist Fareed Zakaria have raised the question “Does the US University system need change?” The news really exploded when Pennyslyvania 12th Grader Suzy Lee Weiss wrote a Wall Street Journal opinon piece which expressed her disgruntlement about not being admitted to any Ivy League college, despite having top notch credentials.
While Weiss’s well-publicized case put the spotlight on the seemingly arbitrary nature of admissions, other blogs also shared anecdotal accounts of individual student results. Looking at these, the system seems to make even less sense than ever. Closer to home, Sush Krishnamoorthy of New Delhi, student blogger for The New York Times, ‘The Choice’ blog, puzzled over her own admisson to Cornell (with a 15% acceptance rate). While being rejected at Harvey Mudd (18% acceptance rate) and Wellesley (28% acceptance rate). By the numbers, her results should not have come out this way. Other student bloggers report much the same kind of randomness in results.
So knowing all of this, what is a future applicant to do? Obviously a set of people will say if there are no guarantees why go through all the hard work of creating a competitive student profile just to end somewhere the student could have gone without as much effort. Just enjoy life and do your best. There is nothing wrong with that approach, and it is consistent with what I always tell people – if you enjoy something, do it. Whether its extracurricular, studies or social service. Doing something only to impress admissions officers is transparent and usually fails.
But if you have your sights set on studying in the US and you are worried about this year’s results, consider the fact that out of the 4,000+ universities in the U.S. only 135 are so selective that they admit 50% or fewer of their applicants. This means there are literally thousands more excellent colleges where you have a very high chance of getting in. I appreciate that attending a college you may not have heard of seems like a risky investment of time and money, but with a little homework you can identify some great opportunities. Depending on your goals, research the college’s student profile, placement rate, or try to find local alumni to talk to about the college. And, if you are planning to work in the US after graduation, contact the international student office to find out whether most international graduates get visa sponsorship for work after they complete their degree. Simple questions like these can help you find some gems, and who knows, you may even get a scholarship!
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