In all of your years working with students, what were some of the most unexpected admissions successes you witnessed?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

In all of your years working with students, what were some of the most unexpected admissions successes you witnessed?

Marilyn Emerson
President Emerson Educational Consulting

A few pick me ups from my inbox...

“…I could not have picked a better university; Penn State is truly amazing and has been providing me with so many opportunities.” “…your belief that our daughter could make it into Syracuse gave her the confidence to try and ultimately realize her dream.” “…I also wanted to share with you the exciting news that I was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa – I think it is safe to say we found the right place for me!” Success really is about finding the right fit. 

Roby Blust
Dean of Admissions & Enrollment Planning Marquette University

Why we do what we do...

I was heading out of my office a couple of years ago in May and I was approached by a young man.  He looked familiar, but I wasn’t quite sure.  He came right up to me and extended his hand.  He said, “Dean Blust, you might not remember me, but 3 years ago you took a chance on me coming from a community college to Marquette.  Next week I will graduate from MU, and you changed my life, and I just wanted to say thanks.”  We shook hands, and I try to recall that story whenever I question why I do this work.

Shelley Levine
Certified Educational Planner College Bound

Reach high, but always have a great back up plan!...

Recently, I met a talented young man who had been rejected twice (once during high school and again during his gap year) by the same highly selective university. Somewhat desperate for appropriate next steps, his parents contacted me. Long story short, this terrific student enrolled at University of St. Andrews in Scotland the following fall. St. Andrew’s was a perfect match for his international interest, academic strengths, and career focus. He is thrilled with his experience (and secretly happy he was rejected by his then, first choice university. We all think St. Andrews turned out to be his dream school.

John Carpenter

Not an unexpected admit, but an unexpected surprise...

The truth is that there really are very few surprises in college admissions when what the student offers matches what the institution's priorities or needs are.  However, one year, I was working with eight or nine kids who had all applied to the same highly selective university in a restricted early admissions program.  The surprise wasn't who was admitted or who wasn't; the surprise came during my conversation with the admissions officer who clearly had done his homework and knew each of the kid's applications in amazing detail.  It reaffirmed for me that admissions officers do indeed make significant effort to know applicants in order to make the best decisions--no matter how difficult.

James Goecker
Vice President for Enrollment Management Rose Hulman Institute of Technology

Great Question!!

My most gratifying moments in admissions involve witnessing the moment when an admissions decision is clearly a pivotal moment in a student's life. One clearly stands out. In the early 1990's a young man came to our campus for a visit. His father had been a high ranking official in the government of a South American country which had undergone one of its frequent changes in leadership. His father, a once powerful individual, was making a living as a cook in a small Midwestern town. During the visit, we had the opportunity to inform the young man that he had been admitted to our Institute. At that moment, the son and father locked eyes and a million words passed between them in an unspoken wave of emotion. With tears in both of their eyes, the boy slowly walked into his father's embrace and simply said "Thank you" to his father. The emotion I felt at that moment made me realize that we in the admissions profession really can and do change lives. The young man went on to graduate in mechanical engineering and is today a respected professional with a beautiful family. To witness the moment when the past was laid to rest with its despair and uncertainty and see the beginning of a future that literally changed a family is still the best moment I have had in over 25 years in college admissions.

Rachel Smith-Vaughan

The best fit is different for everyone

Yearly, there are students who are reluctant to speak with me because they assume that they will not be able to attend college because their parents cannot afford tuition, travel, room, and board.  Fortunately, through the generosity of colleges, the students are able to matriculate and complete a higher education degree. I have also worked with students whose grades did not reflect their potential. However, they were leaders in the school, actively involved within their communities and achieved high SAT scores. These students were able to matriculate into their dream school. Don’t despair; remember there is a university for everyone.  Make sure you apply to the universities which are the best “fit” for you.

Helen Cella

In all of your years working with students, what were some of the most unexpected admissions successes you witnessed?

George Washington with a $38,000/yr scholarship Amherst College, guidance counselor had told her she didn't have a chance.

Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

University of California

It is amazing how the UC schools have completely reversed their philosophy and methodology in terms of admitting in state students. It wasn't so long ago that California students considered some of the UCs their "backup" schools. Others strategized and saved money by attending a local community college (most notably Santa Monica Community College) for two years. After two years and upon achieving the required GPA, students were accepted to not just one of the UCs, but often many of them. Now California students must deal with international and out of state competition pay significantly more in tuition as well as waitlists and unexpected transfers to a UC they did not choose. Some students believe that it is easier to gain acceptance at an Ivy than a UC. We will continue to see the trend of Californians flocking to the east coast where many of them feel more welcome.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

In all of your years working with students, what were some of the most unexpected admissions successes you witnessed?

It is always nice to see when a highly selective college accepts a truly wonderful person even though the "numbers" may not be as high as they normally want. It puts your faith back into the process to know that they do read thoroughly and recognized the potential. One example is a young man who had done extremely well in very rigorous courses at a very challenging high school. He had glowing recommendations and strong involvement in a couple activities that were really important to him. He is a genuinely kind, fun, intelligent, motivated person. The only glitch was that his testing was not as strong as his grades. The scores were not low, they just were not in line with the rest of his profile. A number of very reputable "testing optional" colleges denied him, and yet one of the Ivies accepted him. He went and has thrived.

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University

"But I'm number 1"

I have had several students not get into their dream college, but it worked out. And, I might add, it made them a better person, and they loved the school they ended up going to. These are successes. I believe that the college that chose them, did so for a very particular reason, and my students loved them for it.