How to get rejected from college in 10 easy steps

How to get rejected from college in 10 easy steps

As discussed in my previous post, application inflation seems to be hitting ever greater heights. With the online Common App allowing students to apply to 15+ schools at the click of a button, it can be hard for applicants to gauge their real chances at a particular school: there’s no way to know just how many of those 40,000 applicants are serious contenders. With so many competing for so few slots, sometimes getting rejected isn’t a matter of doing anything in particular wrong. It’s just “great kid, but only if room” – which, of course, there isn’t.

That said, there are still some specific, common reasons for why the college application process can produce less than stellar results. So if you want to know what NOT to do, I offer you the following list of 10 ways to get rejected from college. (more…)

Why Harvard is wrong to stop requiring the (terrible, horrible, no good, very bad) SAT essay

Why Harvard is wrong to stop requiring the (terrible, horrible, no good, very bad) SAT essay

Harvard University has announced that it will be dropping the SAT/ACT Essay requirement, beginning with the class of 2023. Along with Princeton, Yale, and Stanford, Harvard was one of the last holdouts to require that students submit this component.

I wrote a series of critiques of the redesigned essay when the new test was first rolled out, and I still believe that it is deeply problematic – I think colleges are justified in viewing it with suspicion. At the same time, however, I believe that there are very compelling reasons for schools to continue requiring some sort of writing sample completed under proctored conditions.

Although some of my initial concerns about the SAT essay were unfounded, the principal issue remains that it is fundamentally a nonsense assignment, one presented in muddled language that says one thing and means something else. It asks students to analyze how an author uses “evidence” to build an argument, but seeks to remove outside knowledge from the equation. In reality, this is an absurd proposition: any even slightly substantive analysis of “evidence” is impossible without actual knowledge of a topic. (more…)

Putting deferrals in context

Putting deferrals in context

I’m beginning to think that high school students should be required to take a Statistics course just to be able to navigate the numeric thicket surrounding the college admissions process. As I’ve written about recently, the percentages that colleges throw around throughout the admissions process can’t necessarily be taken at face value.

Much like the overall acceptance rates that colleges release each spring, statistics involving Early Action and Early Decision deferrals require some interpreting as well. Depending on the college, a deferral can tell a lot about an applicant’s chances in the spring — or it can tell almost nothing at all. In some cases, a deferral can also act as a warning sign about the likely fate of someone’s applications at other schools of comparable selectivity; in others, it might do just the opposite. In either of those cases, an early deferral could spur you to make some last-minute alterations to your list. (more…)

The biggest lie in college admissions

The biggest lie in college admissions

It took a while to happen, but college essays have begun to be placed under the kind of scrutiny traditionally reserved for the SAT. In just the past couple of weeks, articles have appeared in both the Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed discussing the college essay industry and highlighting the vast sums of money some families spend on assistance with this aspect of the application.

These articles raise some very important questions: exactly how much help is too much? And how should colleges evaluate an assignment that some applicants have spent thousands of dollars to complete? (more…)

What Ivy League acceptance rates really mean (fun with statistics!)

What Ivy League acceptance rates really mean (fun with statistics!)

Over the past several decades, acceptance rates at the most selective United States colleges and universities have dropped dramatically. In the mid-1990s, for example, Yale University had an acceptance rate of around 18% for freshman applicants, whereas its freshman acceptance rate in 2017 was only one-third as high. Assuming that acceptances rates for the high school class of 2018 are similar to those for the class of 2017, all freshman applicants to Yale during the 2017-2018 admissions cycle will compete in a pool from which approximately 6% of freshman applicants are accepted.

Which of the following would most weaken the conclusion of this passage?

(A) Applicants who apply to Yale through Single Choice Early Action are accepted at far lower rates than they were in the mid-1990s.
(B) There is a significant difference in the acceptance rates of Single Choice Early Action and Regular Decision Yale applicants.
(C) The most competitive applicants to Yale often gain admission to multiple Ivy League schools.
(D) A smaller percentage of students apply to Yale through Single Choice Early Action than apply Regular Decision.
(E) The demographic makeup of Yale’s freshman class has changed significantly over the past several decades. (more…)