Will Your College Application Be Attention-Getting?
by Jeannette Webb
Two generations ago it was easier to get into Harvard than it was to get into the army, according to an elderly Harvard alum. Last year it was reported that Harvard had 35,000 applications.
At America’s top schools, the paper piles are getting deeper by the year. Demographically, we’ve probably seen the worst peak in college-age students, but with the ease of the Common Application we are likely to see high average numbers of applications submitted per student and thus large numbers of applicants to each college. I’ve been shocked by parents who confess their students sent in 17-25 applications hoping that one would be accepted. The good news is that the more applications students fill out, the more careless they get.
What does that mean for homeschoolers? Basically, you need to do a good job with your application and you need to have something worthwhile to put on it. An admissions officer from MIT made an interesting statement a few years ago. She said that homeschoolers seem to cluster on the opposite ends of the continuum. Either they were very, very qualified and did a great job on their applications or they were horribly under qualified (read that, “didn’t have a clue”). Here’s how to have a clue:
1. Make sure you are academically up to par. It is important that you understand the rigor of the school your student is applying to. Don’t waste your effort and money and their time unless you have a chance. Pull up the website for the school in question. Go to the Undergraduate Admissions section. Look at these four areas:
- Admissions Requirements
- Standardized Testing
- Admission Statistics
- Homeschool Applications (if the school has this. More and more do now).
· Have you met the testing and class requirements? If not, don’t bother. If they say something is optional, don’t consider it to be so. They can make exceptions in certain special cases, but normally “optional” means “expected.”
In the Admission Statistics section you will see statistics from last year’s admitted class. Look at GPA figures, test scores (usually students have rank-in-class, but we don’t have that) – looking at the average, median, or range of numbers for each – then compare your student’s scores. If he is below the average matriculated candidate, it is a reach school. He would have to have an incredible extracurricular profile, letters of recommendation, etc. to have a shot here. I usually only recommend applying to a few reach schools.
If he is in the middle of the freshman class ranges, he would be a “possible.” This means your student has a chance, but in highly competitive schools there are thousands of kids in this range. The rest of the application has to be stellar. My clients normally apply to 4-5 possible schools.
If your student’s grades/scores are in the top quarter of the admitted class, they have strong extracurriulars, and the school is a good fit, it is probably a likely match. We call these safety schools and my clients also apply to 1-2 “safeties.” Normally we select their safeties based on the school having good merit-based scholarships (especially for those who’s parent’s income don’t qualify for need-based aid).
Bottom line, if your student is not academically up to speed, it will be next to impossible to convince a school that they are a good fit. We’ll continue this series in the next post. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below.