What kind of student should be looking at a highly selective school?
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.