Just when I thought I had a grip on how unpredictable the college admissions process has become, I was told the following story by an acquaintance whose son is a senior in a very top suburban district outside of New York City.
It sounded a bit improbable, but his mother assured me that this is actually what happened.
GPA: about a B+
Intended major: Business
Her son sent in an early application to the Finance program at Fordham (selective major), but he was told that his application wasn’t strong enough, and he was advised to switch his application to the general pool.
He did so and also submitted applications to a number of other schools, including Binghamton, Penn State, BU, and Indiana-Kelley (Business).
Binghamton: Accepted. Student turned it down because he didn’t want to live in not-very-happening central New York State for four years.
IU-Kelley: Accepted. Student turned it down because he didn’t want to have to fly to school. (“So why did he apply”? I asked. His mother rolled her eyes. “Teenagers. Who knows.”)
Penn State: Rejected from main campus; offered admission at Abington.
Fordham: Wait-listed. (I’ve literally never heard of a student being wait-listed at a school to which they applied—or attempted to apply—early. I actually asked his mother several times whether she was absolutely sure he had been wait-listed and not just deferred.)
Since Bing and IU were out, he decided that he should go to Penn State-Abington for a year and then transfer to the main campus. His mother was seriously under-impressed by the Abington campus, but before she even really had a chance to try to talk him out of it…
He got off the wait-list at Fordham.
With a $40,000 merit scholarship.
On May 2nd.
1) Grades count more than test scores. I recognize that pretty much anyone involved in college admissions will say that, but it bears repeating. At the more selective schools, a 34 ACT was not enough to compensate for a so-so GPA, even from an extremely challenging high school.
2) There are no guarantees at selective schools with 70,000 (or even 45,000) applicants. Particularly if the school in question is public, half the East Coast applies, and a student is out of state.
3) People do actually get off waitlists. I’m not trying to give anyone false hope here, but sometimes life is strange.
4) Colleges are increasingly unable to predict enrollment: the fact that the student was offered such a significant merit scholarship for a program from which he had originally been dissuaded from applying, the day AFTER enrollment decisions were due, indicates that Fordham seriously overestimated its yield rate (which was not terribly high to begin with). Given that Fordham is a reputable, popular school with many decades of experience managing freshman enrollment, this suggests that the admissions landscape suddenly became much more unstable this year and that some administrators somewhere were starting to panic.
I suspect that finances may be playing a major role here: my acquaintance mentioned that almost none of her son’s friends were planning to attend private schools; their parents just don’t want to shell out that kind of money. And this is in a town with an average income in the mid-six figures. If families in that income bracket are now being deterred from private schools by the cost, then this kind of craziness is probably just a harbinger of things to come.
Good story, and indeed it does reflect a serious yield variance (I won’t call it miscalculation yet because it’s only one year) at Fordham.
I would comment, that a 3.3-3.4 GPA (no matter how competitive a school) seems to be a larger than average disparity with a 34 / 1520 SAT score. So I agree that for this type of student, anything in the 1450-1540 range probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference
My subjective belief (based on limited data) is that there are more kids clustered with high GPA’s, where a +40-50 point SAT boost can make a significant difference. Had one student from a competitive NYC HS come to our clinic very shortly before his/her last SAT chance. Student went +40 on the superscore, which pushed him/her to the1500 threshold. At a “top liberal arts college” this moved him from slightly below SAT aveage to 30 points above the median. Student will attend this LA college in the fall.
To your last point- if more “150K” income families balk at paying for private college, then SAT/ACT scores will continue to rise at state schools. GPA still matters MORE, but higher standardized scores become necessary to “qualify.”
Just saw this post. You mention that you’ve never heard of a student wait-listed at a school to which s/he applied or attempted to apply Early. We see it all of the time. And at some schools this year, we saw EA/ED students not only waitlisted in Regular Decision but sent directly to the waitlist from Early–not reevaluation in RD at all.