Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

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Our counselors answered:

Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps


There is no simple answer to the question of whether a hometown could affect a student's chances of admission, but the state of residency certainly does. There are some private colleges which allot a certain number of spaces to its own state; Brown does that for Rhode Island residents, and many state schools establish quotas that clearly favor their own. Conversely, there are colleges which favor geographic diversity. I can say with certainty that here in the Northeast, admission can be mighty tough because of the great numbers of qualified students. Sometimes they do better by applying at a distance. There are also particular schools which have a good reputation with admissions officers (e.g., a magnet school in an inner city) and that could be a competitive advantage. Yet that is the school, not really the hometown.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

Yes it does for sure

students should consider hometown first especially highly selective colleges.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

I think that your geographic location can have some effect on college admissions in two instances: 1. some public universities: in California, we have the University of California system and the Cal State University system. Like many public university systems, the UC system gives priority to in-state residents. However, more and more out-of-state students are being admitted in light of their ability to pay higher tuition to cash-strapped UCs. With regards to the Cal State system -- admissions is extremely localized. By that I mean that preference (and for some campuses like CSU Long Beach and CSU San Diego -- heavy preference) is given to students who live in the immediate vicinity of the campus. 2. extremely selective schools: some highly selective schools consider geographic diversity an important factor in compiling a "well-rounded" class. For that reason, admissions decisions may include a consideration of an applicant's hometown or home state. If you are from North Carolina or Alaska, you might have experiences and perspectives that are different and unique. That sort of diversity is valued by many schools.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

It can in the same way that your background, your interests, and your co-curricular record can impact the ultimate decision because they are all a part of who you are and in the end that is what is being reviewed by the admissions office. Remember in the end the admissions process is about the school trying to create a community and all of who and what you are play a part in their deciding who best fits that goals. Schools want to assemble a class that is widely representative of the community from which they are drawing to make their own, and so there are things that they will look for, things like what state an applicant is from, the activities they will participate in, etc. In general no one thing will make or break it—although certain specific talents—an all-American point guard for instance--may trump more widely held attributes. The best you can do is present an application that gives the admission offices as full a picture of who you are and what –at any number of levels—you can contribute to their community. The ultimate decision is theirs, one that often says far more about them than about you.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

It could, but just because you were born in Sarajevo or Kalimantan won't assure it. There are just too many variables to answer this question definitively .

Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

Short Answer: Seasoned admissions officers who have spent years working at colleges in the same state will know your hometown and/or high school fairly well. However, this can cause them to prejudge your application. Detailed Answer: There is a great deal of prejudice in college admissions – as many different attitudes as there are counselors -- so the fact that an admissions officer knows your school can work both for or against you. Hometown and/or high schools that are in socioeconomically challenged areas are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to college admissions. Counselors who have personal prejudices against certain ethnicities or economic backgrounds will lean toward not admitting students from those hometown and/or high schools. I remember a student from a high school in Jersey City, a famously poor, urban, multi-ethnic area. Her academic record was straight As in a strong academic program. She had maxed out everything she could take. She was Valedictorian. However, her hometown and/or high school did not offer SAT prep courses, and clearly her family could not afford to pay for individual coaching. Her combined SAT verbal and math score was 900, well below minimum admissibility. I pushed her file up the line and said to the associate director, “YOU be the one who can’t sleep at night for denying this student.” Eventually we admitted her, but the discussions about it revealed the deeply held prejudices of individual staff members. Conversely, students from high income communities are expected to have benefited from all the privileges and advantages afforded to their high school students. This can make it difficult for a student whose academic record is weak. The assumption is that the student is either 1) too dumb to make it at the college, or 2) lazy. The fact is that any number of issues can play into the failure of a student’s academic record. These factors can make it difficult to see the student’s real talent – hidden traumas, family or personal illnesses, divorce, abuse, romantic disappointments, late-blooming maturity, etc. The counselor may assume that the student had all the advantages in the world, so there must be something wrong with this student to not have achieved at a level similar to his/her peers. The bottom line is this: Admissions counselors that know your high school and community may base their opinion of YOU on past students who have applied from your school – which has very little to do with who you are or who you will be. A final story: At the NACAC conference this past September, the Princeton rep on the College Interview seminar panel blurted out that Princeton simply “never takes students from West Virginia.” Then she stumbled all over herself trying to take back her words. It would have been funny had it not been so smug and disturbing. Talk about your entire home STATE working against you…

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

Yes it matters. Most colleges will view your application in context and where you have lived is a big part of that context. It can make it much more difficult or less difficult to be accepted at certain schools.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

Geography can pay a role in college admissions. Colleges are looking for diversity on many fronts including where you are from in the world. I would doubt that it gets down to the town you live but which state or country is taken into consideration.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

While your hometown shouldn't make a difference, your school can. Colleges establish relationships with particular schools and know what it means to graduate from XYZ high school. They may recruit more heavily or less from yor school based on the reputation of the school. If your school has a favorable relationship with a particular college make sure you pay a visit when the admissions officer is in town.

Angela Conley
College Admission Expert VentureForth

Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

Quiet as it is kept, diversity is more than race. If one derives from a small town, or place off the beaten track, it may impact your admission decision. Keep in mind that this includes the assumption that you've evidenced stellar achievement academically and otherwise. In discussions with students, I often cite the "big fish, small pond" example as a way to bring positive attention to your gifts. At the same time, those whose origin includes communities known for less than positive characteristics, may similarly be impacted.