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“But I shoulda gotten in”: The Gorilla in the Application Room

Mere days from now, acceptance and rejection letters will arrive. Students will be at a joyous loss for words, or speechless in despair. Get ready. And remember a very, very important fact to mitigate the downside – the rejection: while the national high school student population has grown, the number of freshman spots in those Halls of Ivy have not been able to keep pace. No way, no how. That’s the gorilla in the room.

To put it in perspective, look at it this way:

  1. For the most competitive schools – those brand-name institutions on everyone’s lips – there are more qualified applicants than each school can admit! To put it simply, there’s no more dorm or classroom space. Period. It’s not because you didn’t “qualify” to meet the strict standards for admission; rather, it’s that Jones Hall and the science labs are all filled. Really. You had the best grades, the most rigorous curriculum, all the extracurricular stuff, the shining essay, outstanding teacher recommendations, etc. etc., but…sorry.

  2. Here’s another view of this number squeeze: top tier schools admit, let’s say, about 8% of applicants. BUT…roughly 35% of those admitted are athletes. Another 35% are children of alumni, or people in “high places” (celebs, politicians).

  3. So, what does that leave for the “best and the brightest” applicants? Some 2.5% of those applicants will be admitted for the remaining spots – admitted from among the best and brightest – maybe you, maybe not. Remember: if you don’t get it, it’s not personal, it’s not necessarily because you aren’t qualified – it’s just that there isn’t enough room.

So, when you line up your classmates to account for in’s and out’s, and you scratch your head trying to figure out why he or she did, or did not, get in to Gottago U., you’ll understand that the simplest answer can seem like the most absurd after your almost four years of high school life. What the ultimate determining factors are for the top applicants to each selective university could be almost anything: playing the tuba, majoring in Russian, living in North Dakota, producing an off-Broadway play, speaking five languages; starting and expanding a community service organization.

The Takeaway

Perhaps there’s caché in a school’s name, but the most critical, essential, primary quality of undergraduate education is to make the most of it in surroundings that bring out your best. Your classmates, your professors, your eye on the future (graduate school) can provide stepping stones to a fulfilling and prosperous future. Seize the day, no matter what!

Score at the Top

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