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?

Amy Swords
Director of College Advising Kingswood Oxford School

It’s the unexpected successes that bring vitality to college admissions...

When a student identifies a college or university that appeals to them as much as I expected it would, I know I’ve hit a home-run. Yet there are times when a student ends up somewhere that I never expected him/her to be happy. And when that student sends me an email from college to say “thanks,” or just to keep in touch, it gives me the momentum to work just as hard for future students. If they follow the process and do their research, there is no doubt they will find the best place for themselves…whether it’s a school from my list, their list, or our list.

Diana Hanson
Common Sense College Counseling College Mentors

Follow your dream, keep it alive, and you will succeed...

One student dreamed of attending UC Berkeley. His 3.6 average and middling SATs, by the numbers, wouldn't get him in. However, this student's positive attitude and amazing work ethic helped him create his success. He took a strong academic load and participated in sports; he also took care of his younger siblings and was, in many ways, the adult in his single parent family. He wrote a strong essay about his family life and was rewarded with acceptance to Cal! Students take many roads to college success.

Jane Klemmer
Founder Klemmer Educational Consulting

Community college can fulfill a dream and make it affordable...

Marty could only dream about NYU, given her less than stellar high school grades.  She was neither academically nor emotionally ready for college. After a 2 ½ year hiatus from academics filled with work, travel and volunteering, Marty gravitated back to school.  She chose to enroll in the local community college, now possessing greater self-awareness, motivation and sense of purpose. This past May Marty earned her associate degree with honors, plus a prestigious state university award. The community college experience turned her life around, and also made college affordable.  Winning a scholarship reserved for community college transfers, Marty will realize her dream and enroll at NYU this fall.

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.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Unexpected Admissions Successes

Thinking of my wonderful students, I have had some pleasant surprises but not many that were really unexpected. The reason is that colleges have many goals when they fill a class, and not all of those goals are academic. I have seen some students whose critical thinking or writing skills aren't at the level of others be able to choose from an impressive array of colleges because they bring something else to the game. That might include being the best on the ball field, even having a national rank. Sometimes I provide guidance and am very cautious with my suggestions for college, and those students wind up with more options that the very academic students who do not have connections of any sort. One of my students a few years ago threw in a few colleges, giving in to his parents, and wound up with significant scholarships. That same student became an admissions success by flying to a college which had waitlisted him and appearing in the admissions office. The admissions officer took some notes, and he was off the waiting list within a week or two. I hear many stories in the business or through other students that do surprise me, for example, students getting calls from colleges the week of graduation asking them if they'd like to attend, sometimes offering them a spot if they're willing to wait a year - and those colleges include Harvard!

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.