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.
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.
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.
Even though they all are categorized as the Ivies, we cannot forget that they are eight very different institutions each considering various factors when making their acceptance decisions. Remember, every college no matter how they are categorized has their own “personality” and admissions decisions are made based on the applicant’s overall application portfolio (GPA, SAT/ACT scores, involvement, experiences, etc.). Some of the Ivies also require interviews for students applying to specific programs; a beautiful application can be placed in the denied acceptance pile because of a terrible interview (and vice versa!)
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.
Each institution is looking for slightly different things to put together their class. At this level, there is no specific answer.
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.
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