How can a student get accepted at Harvard, rejected from Brown, and waitlisted at Yale?

Admissions Decisions

Our counselors answered:

How can a student get accepted at Harvard, rejected from Brown, and waitlisted at Yale?

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

How can a student get accepted at Harvard, rejected from Brown, and waitlisted at Yale?

With those schools & certainly many others it's always a crap shoot, and I can speak from experience as to their admissions policies. Sometimes it's too many students with a specific ethnic background or too many students from the same high school who apply. For very high profile students, it's extremely important to spread your options & apply to 8-10 or even 10-12 colleges. To avoid the above situation, students must present themselves differently and out of the box. One of the strategies I use is getting non-applicants on campus interviews in the 10th & 11th grade. It's never too early to begin the process. I like to start working w/kids just before they enter high school or very soon thereafter.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

How can a student get accepted at Harvard, rejected from Brown, and waitlisted at Yale?

Each institution is looking for slightly different things to put together their class. At this level, there is no specific answer.

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

How can a student get accepted at Harvard, rejected from Brown, and waitlisted at Yale?

This is not uncommon. There are many factors that cause schools of similar selectivity to respond differently to the same student. The schools are involved in creating a class as well as fitting the new class together with the previous class. Your interests, talents, and passions may be a key piece of the puzzle at one school and a duplicate at another.

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

How can a student get accepted at Harvard, rejected from Brown, and waitlisted at Yale?

That actually happened to me. I couldn't believe it when it happened more than 30 years ago. After getting over my sadness about Brown and confusion about Yale, I visited Harvard and the other colleges that accepted me. I gladly chose Harvard. Welcome to the agony and ecstasy of applying to Ivy League colleges. They get so many applicants, that they accept form 5.9 to 16% of them. That means that thousands upon thousands of stellar students get rejected. Last year, I had a kid who got into Harvard and Penn but rejected from every other Ivy League college. I had another just accepted to Brown but waitlisted to Harvard and Yale. These two students were and are extraordinary. There is no rhyme or reasons with these top candidates. Each campus is looking for something different, and they can choose from an amazing group of students. Applicants to top colleges should be happy just to get into one top college. I was, and I never looked back.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

How can a student get accepted at Harvard, rejected from Brown, and waitlisted at Yale?

Yes, it happens all the time! When I worked as a school counselor I would see the top students in every class “take turns” at who would get into what school. One would get into Harvard and some would be waitlisted. Two different students would be admitted to Yale and the Harvard admit wouldn’t. Then a completely different student would be admitted to Princeton when the other Ivy admits are denied. This goes to show you that at the highly competitive universities (Ivy League and Ivy-Like) all serious applicants are such outstanding students that the difference between admission, wait list, and rejection can come down to such miniscule factors that it is difficult to predict.

Tira Harpaz
Founder CollegeBound Advice

How can a student get accepted at Harvard, rejected from Brown, and waitlisted at Yale?

That is actually not that uncommon a scenario. Schools may have different institutional priorities (i.e., one school is looking for top science students and one school is looking for strong theatrical performers) which can lead to different outcomes. In addition, given that most Ivies practice "holistic" review of applications, your essay or entire application may stand out to one admissions office and not another. In general, when acceptance rates are under 10%, almost any outcome is possible.