Students and parents want the secret to getting into the top colleges in the country. Some families pay a lot of money to help them get admitted into the top institutions. Unfortunately, there is no secret, but there are things that can possibly give you a better chance of being admitted.
Before going over the things that can help students gain admission, let’s explain why there is no secret to be admitted. When you are applying to colleges that have low acceptance rates, typically it is because the colleges receive a lot more applications than they have space for at the college. For example, Stanford University, the most selective institution in 2016, received 43,997 applications, but only admitted 2,114. That is only a 4.8% acceptance rate! Therefore, a lot more goes into the decision making than grades and test scores. Here are some things to consider:
- Admissions committees typically make the decision. The committee can look a little different at each of the colleges you are considering. Some colleges will have one or two admissions counselors review your application file and make the decision. Other colleges may use an admissions committee that includes admissions counselors, the admissions director, faculty, and other individuals associated with the institution.
- Admissions committees can be very subjective. When admissions committees receive thousands of applications with similar grades and test scores, other things can come into play when making decisions. What is important to one decision maker could be less important to another decision maker. Some admissions decision makers may feel a connection with a student and want to take a chance on the student while another committee member may decide not to admit. Lastly, admissions committees can change every year. Therefore, someone who was admitted for admissions this year may not have been admitted the previous year.
- Admissions committees are not just admitting students to the colleges. They are also admitting students to specific academic disciplines. Popular majors, such as business, may have a lot more competition than a less popular major. This is one reason a straight A student applying to a popular major may not be not offered admission, but a B student is admitted to a less popular major.
While there is no secret to being admitted and no one can guarantee you will be admitted to a specific institution, there are ways to better your chance of being admitted:
- Good grades. Push yourself to get the best grades you can get.
- Advanced classes. Push yourself to take academically challenging classes. If your school offers AP, IB, or honors courses, take those classes if you are up for the challenge. In addition, take more than the required classes. For example, if your school only requires three years of math, push yourself and take a fourth year.
- Participate in meaningful activities. Don’t sign up for every club and organization your school offers. Instead, find activities you enjoy and really dive in and get more involved than just attending meetings.
- Show your passion for the college. Sign up for the mailing list, visit campus, and talk to your admissions counselor. In addition, if possible, show your passion for the institution in an essay if you are asked to submit an essay on why you want to attend the institution.
- Make a connection with your admissions counselor. Talk to your admissions counselor and ask your questions. This can show you are very interested in the college, as well as letting the admissions counselor get to know you. Build a relationship with your admissions counselor. Later on when the admissions committee is making their decision, this connection could come into play. The admissions counselor may “go to bat for you” if you made a positive impression on them.
- Stand out from the crowd. There may be hundreds of students who are applying with identical grades and test scores. This is why it is important to do things that make you stand out. Make sure your admissions essay is meaningful and unique. Share your activities in a way that ensure the committee sees your passion and interest.
- Be authentic. After reading hundreds of applications and essays, many admissions decision makers can spot students who are being insincere. Be yourself throughout the application and essay.
When applying to colleges with low acceptance rates, there is no guarantee you will be admitted. In addition, there are no secrets to getting in. If you are not admitted to one of these colleges, it doesn’t mean you are not qualified. Keep your head high and know that there are many other students who are in your same situation. You will find and be admitted to a different school that may be a better fit for you.