The College Admissions Game

Got a note  this morning from someone I used to work with and sporadically keep in touch with that her oldest, now applying for college admission, did not despite a sterling academic record and I guess impeccable outside activities, did not get into a big-name college applied to, perhaps the college of first choice.

Perhaps this aspiring college student is crestfallen; many take rejection notes personally and a ‘sorry, but..’ note is not personal.  From the note I read, the mother certainly is taking it personally, especially after all the time  she invested from kindergarten onwards in this child.

But having been there, first college admissions seems to be far, far more competitive than it was in my time (and that was a long time ago). Whether it is because there are more kids now competing for a limited about of freshman slots, or in the case of big-name schools, the knowledge they will always have a set demand and this can be extremely selective, who knows.

But there are other facets.  One is even getting into a big-name school doesn’t mean a ticket into the top-tier afterwards.  I remember reading somewhere that those from big-name schools who ‘succeed’ are those who are in the top 10% of their class.  That’s a pretty tall order.  Another facet, one surprisingly from son unit, is that while one may have a gold-plated high school CV and stand out in school,  one will find that upon entering college  there is a whole incoming class of kids just like you, thus starting college is like entering first grade, you are starting out all over again.

Yet another facet is one’s high school. I am not talking about good high school vs. bad ones, but that the so-called brainiac high school, the ones students must test for to attend, make it harder to stand out for a college admissions officer as all the students from such schools generally have the same high altitude academic record.  One student remarked that rather than have busted his ass getting into and then graduating from one of the ‘elite’ highs schools here, he if he had to do it all over again, he would have stayed in his home school where he believed he would have stood out more and perhaps gotten admission to the first college of choice.

And then there is the factor of the colleges seeing for example, if the student is a legacy student, i.e., the child of an alumni  and more importantly an alumni committed to the school, meaning $$$ donations.  Related to that is even if the child is not legacy, who committed has the family been to the school in other ways.

Finally for me, as students are as individual as they can be there is a college that fits.  A large, big-name college many not be the best choice.  Personally, I see more attraction in a good, smaller college such as where son unit goes.

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