What kind of student should be looking at a highly selective school?
While colleges do consider many factors in making admit decisions: such as geographic, racial and religious diversity, ability to pay, talent( in sports/arts etc) demonstrated interest in a campus and legacy. The key factor for all schools would be your likelihood of being academically successful if you were to be accepted. In order to determine this- your HS transcripts is carefully evaluated, both as to your grades and the level of challenge ( i.e. AP/Honors/IB Classes). After the transcripts, your test scores are given the most attention. Colleges will list the average GPA and SAT scores for their most recent freshman class. Check and see if your academic profile comes close to who they accepted last year, to determine if you have a chance at admissions.
if your school has the first class counseling services open to students, you should consider highly selective schools to gain competitive advantages for admissions.
if you are not going to apply for financial aid, please use early decision strategy for admisisons, highly selective schools offer early decision with better acceptence rate.
if you are strong in academics and do not have access to first class counseling services, you should consider highly selective schools through regular decision and pay attention to the list of schools to apply.
the common mistakes made by the majority of middle class students are apply too many similar schools based on brand name recognition and nothing outstanding other than academics.
If you are someone who thrives in an atmosphere with a strong academic press, then please consider the selectivity of the school. If you enjoy being surrounded by others with a serious commitment to their education, you want to be looking at a selective school. If you have a strong transcript, demonstrating rigor in the curriculum; then considering a highly selective school has merit. Please don’t bother applying if you are just trying to earn the “badge” of acceptance or the coursework expectations seem overwhelming before you’ve even begun. If you are interested in an opportunity to work closely with a faculty member on a project or in a lab, this may be the environment for you.
Selective colleges rely on numbers to assess the competition as fairly as possible. Test scores will matter more often at selective colleges as well as grades, course selection and rigor. If you have a “hook” (not the “arrrr” kind) meaning something that distinguishes you as uber desirable such as athletic prowess, musical talent, etc, in addition to the numbers, you may consider more selective colleges. But ultimately, the cream rises to the top, and if you are the cream, you will be recognized as such. The Avery Advantage suggests working closely with your guidance counselor and/or consultant to establish a balanced list of colleges to which to apply. Inability to manage one’s expectations is often the fatal flaw of the high achieving student. Consider yourself warned, Matey.
The kind of student who should be looking at a highly selective college is a student who is very academic, with excellent test scores, and who is ranked highly within their class. Interesting extracurriculars and experiences help as well. But remember this: highly selective colleges (acceptance rate below 20%) receive applications from perfectly qualified students, but they still only accept a fraction of them. There will be plenty of National Merit Scholars and Valedictorians in the applicant pool, and many of them will be declined. There are certainly no guarantees, and rigor can be found outside of the highly selective school bracket.
Students who have a passion for learning and responsible citizenship will be good candidates for admission at highly selective schools. Cultivation of an athletic or artistic talent will make them especially desirable.
Here is my video response to the question.
Many students this time of year are frantically narrowing down their list of colleges. As with any important decision, they must consider many factors before making the important decision of where you spend the next two-to-four years of their young adult life.
Location, dorm life, quality of education, and tuition are all things that a prospective college student has to consider before even looking at a college’s website. Many students directly correlate the quality of education and price of tuition. They worry and question: how will I lead a successful and prosperous life without the stamp of the Ivy attached to their future job resumes?
Each student is unique and has different requisites that need to be met when they attend a college or university. In this age of unreal competition for spots at top schools, student must remember: Ivy League schools are not the the best choice for everyone.
Think of your hero – the person who admire the most. After that, google their biography. There’s a strong chance that, unless your hero was one of the past four US presidents, your hero probably did not attend an Ivy League school.
A recent article from the Washington Post reported that candidates who did NOT inherit a life of privilege are far more likely to succeed in life because they possess the motivation to reach their goals. As a matter of fact, out of the 549 successful business owners polled, only about 6% of them graduated from Ivy League schools. While the statistic may surprise some, it proves that success equates with the personal dedication and tenacity.
The fact is that hard-working, committed students willl succeed, regardless of the college they attend. And what happens to those who remain lazy and lack ambition? If they do not make a commitment to change, they will not change, whether they attend an Ivy or no college at all.
The best advice for students? Think outside the box. Move beyond the Ivied walls. Find the school that will best nuture you and enable you to reach your future goals.
First a definition of terms. Words mean different things to different people. So
I am going to answer this question for those students or parents who are asking about the
most elite schools in our country.
Over time I’ve developed a proprietary guideline to help me in deciding whether a student should seek candidacy at an elite school. Elite schools to me would be, for example; the eight (8) Ivy League schools or their reputational equivalent; (presidents 568 group, former seven sisters, etc etc.) Without going into the details, this guideline focuses on two
(2) characteristics: (1) Intellectual Curiosity and (2) Drive. If a student is in the “upper
quadrant” of BOTH IC and Drive then I think an undergraduate degree from an elite school would probably be a wise investment.
Otherwise, I think MOST STUDENTS should keep their powder dry, save their money, and
try to use their God-given talents to get into one of the other thousand schools which WILL GIVE THEM A MERIT AWARD. The family can then strategize on going to an ELITE INSTITUTION later for graduate school or professional school.
A few groups beside my so-called “upper quadrant” which MAY ALSO benefit from an undergraduate degree from an elite instituion, are (not in any particular order):
(1) underrepresented minorities, (2) athletes, (3) legacies, and (4) children of the very wealthy. Underrepresented minorities will probably be judged from a different set of standards. If they can attend and graduate from an elite institution, they should take advantage of this coveted opportunity. (2) The same goes for athletes. No institution is going to admit that the academic “bar” would be lowered for an athlete, but in some cases this will happen. I’ve seen 17 year olds turn down an opportunity to go to an elite college, so they could play at a “higher level” of division I. Any high school counselor or parent that encourages this behavior is in need of some serious psychiatric counseling themselves. Honestly, 6 years from now do you think your daughter is going to the WNBA or that your son is going to play professional lacrosse??? Wake up!!! You need to be using your talents to be getting the best education you can get. (3) Ditto for legacies. They might be getting a slight statistical break and if they’re family can well afford it, then they should consider taking it. (4) Finally the rich. Although I’ve known some very AFFLUENT parents who wanted the biggest merit awards their students could bring home, most elite schools have NO MERIT MONEY. A few have athletic money– if they are a DIV I or II (non-IVY) school. If a family has enough money not to worry about money, then an elite school for undergraduate studies could give them a leg up later in the job market.
Again, MOST bright, above average students can get an excellent education at any number of small private schools of the arts and sciences and have the schools award them merit money while they get a four (4) year diploma in four (4) years, and THEN
they will be in the competitive and highly enviable position of being a low-debt candidate at an elite institution for graduate studies.
A perfect student (or as close to perfect as it is possible to get)
As I mentioned in a previous post, when I visited Yale in the Spring, the counselor I spoke with told me in no uncertain terms, “We only take the top students.”
As it happens, I was there to see her about a student I am working with who is brilliant — AND the family has legacy. I did not tell her I was a consultant; I could have been the parent – and a wealthy one, at that. At the very least, in this instance, I was representing one.
So what did this counselor do? She blew me off. Like, totally. She made it quite clear to me that students considering Yale must have:
1. An academic record that is consistently As and A+s in as many AP courses as possible
2. Exhausted all the academic options at their school and pursued college courses if there were no more academic challenges at their school
3. Perfect SATs (or squeakingly close)
4. No break in the academic flow and no grade dips of any kind
5. No gap year
And that’s it – for Yale.
Needless to say, I am encouraging this student to seek entrance to a college that is more worthy of not only his brilliance, but of his spirit and his mental adventurousness. When I experience a dehumanizing experience such as that in an admissions office, I am pretty sure that is the experience the college or university promotes throughout its ranks, and that is unacceptable.
That’s why I like visiting colleges incognito – I want to experience first-hand the way they treat people. If I don’t like the way they treat me, then I’m not going to like the way they treat the young people I have the privilege of helping find success and fulfillment in their lives.
Now, other similarly selective colleges have more of an interest in who you are as a human being and whether or not your personal philosophies and academic interests fit their community. They, too, are seeking the top academic students, but their definition of a “top student” has more range and flexibility than simply a set of numbers.
For example, an Oberlin or a Swarthmore is highly selective – they look for top students, as well, but you have to have more going for you than simply a great academic record. You don’t have to dig too far into information about these types of colleges to see that they value character and integrity. A visit to these colleges conveys this even more.
One more thing: If you are a low income student seeking entrance to a selective college, if your numbers are fantastic, and your character and interests fit the spirit of the college, they will probably try to find money for you to attend. But even the elite colleges are worried about their budgets these days, so they may be leaning toward admitting students who can pay out of pocket, even though they may state in their marketing materials that they have a “need blind” as regards admissions.
Applicants to highly selective schools should be highly motivated students sporting strong records that include something distinctive on top of their extremely strong basic foundation. When the most selective schools have the luxury of selecting a single applicant from every 8 or 9 highly qualified ones (yes, last year Harvard as well as other of its Ivy brethren had an acceptance rate of less than 10%) they review, the applicant needs to have something that makes them stand out from the rest. At the same time an array of great, but not one of a kind accomplishments, can also yield success but students need to recognize that this process is, in many ways, an introduction to real world competition at an extremely high level. If you are determined to apply, do it, recognize the competitive nature of the process. You should not apply simply because a place is selective. Rather, you apply because of what it offers, recognizing that a part of why it is so selective is because what it offers is so valuable and thus so coveted.
A student at the top of their class, but only if those schools have the particular curriculum the student wishes to pursue.
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The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
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