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highly qualified applicant rejected from competitive school?


butterflymommy
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We are friends with a family whose son was just rejected from Cornell early decision. I understand this is a highly competitive school but one of the parents is an alum, his SATs were 740/760 math/verbal. Lots of AP courses, 4.0 gpa, and the family would have been able to pay full tuition (with some pain). I admit to being kind of shaken by this because while I have no big dreams of my kids attending extremely competitive schools, it makes me wonder if they'll even be accepted into a somewhat competitive school.

 

Do you know anyone directly or indirectly who was rejected despite excellent credentials? The parents really believed their child was a shoe-in. (This isn't a HSed child.)

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It does happen. There are so many really well qualified candidates. My own brother, who had almost perfect SATs, wonderful grades (I don't remember his GPA) and 2 Princeton alums in the family (including my grandfather who gave and raised a great deal of money for the college) was rejected at Princeton and accepted at Yale (no family connections). He went on to graduate with high honors and attend their law school.

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We are friends with a family whose son was just rejected from Cornell early decision. I understand this is a highly competitive school but one of the parents is an alum, his SATs were 740/760 math/verbal. Lots of AP courses, 4.0 gpa, and the family would have been able to pay full tuition (with some pain). I admit to being kind of shaken by this because while I have no big dreams of my kids attending extremely competitive schools, it makes me wonder if they'll even be accepted into a somewhat competitive school.

 

Do you know anyone directly or indirectly who was rejected despite excellent credentials? The parents really believed their child was a shoe-in. (This isn't a HSed child.)

 

I'm sure there were kids with even better stats than your friend who were also rejected; no college just takes the top scores and chucks the rest of the applications. Most of the top schools can fill their freshman class 3 times over with highly qualified candidates, so then other factors come into play: geographic diversity, academic diversity (in terms of majors/interests), first generation college student, great essay, unusual coursework or accomplishments, touching backstory, etc.

 

There were also almost certainly kids with lower stats than your friend who were accepted to Cornell, because something about them stood out. I remember reading something someone from Yale had said: "Everyone thinks we're looking for well-rounded students, but actually we're looking for a well-rounded class of jagged students." That really stuck with me.

 

Jackie

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Anecdotally, for some schools, lately it seems even more difficult to get in early decision unless the student is an athlete being recruited by the school or some other special scenario.

 

In addition there are all the usual qualifiers about the odds of getting in to competitive schools. I doubt there is such a thing as a shoe-in for a highly-competitive school.

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Every year there's a news story in the UK about such-and-such extremely qualified candidate being rejected by Oxford or Cambridge. There are just so many who look good on paper that not all of them can get in. In the case of Oxbridge, they interview all candidates before offering places, so a lot of it is down to that: can the tutors see the spark of talent that will make Oxbridge the best place for that person?

 

Laura

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Yes, this sort of thing happens often. Any time acceptance rates are < 25%, a college could fill their class 2 or 3 times with well-qualified applicants. One never truly knows why they pick who they pick nor reject who they reject.

 

I hope your friend had other schools on their list that they applied to... No one should ever apply to just one highly competitive school and expect to get in - even if applying ED and full pay.

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When there are so many highly qualified candidates, they have to draw the line somewhere. Although my daughter is a high stat kid, we opted not to apply to any of the extremely selective universities, because we don't believe they're worth our time (or paying 4x the tuition cost when starting salaries are comparable, but that's another issue). Although she would be competitive on paper, so are most of the other applicants. I don't think anyone can consider themselves a "shoe-in" regardless of stats, legacy or achievements, and anyone who thinks their child is a special snowflake is probably setting themselves up for disappointment.

 

As a speedskating mom, I'm reminded of when Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek was rejected by Harvard, despite high stats, a considerable body of charitable work and Olympic medals under his belt. He was accepted to Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and NYU among others. (He was rejected by Harvard just months before going on to winning gold and silver medals in his second Olympics.)

 

I think sometimes it just comes down to eeny-meeny-miny-mo.

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I feel weird jumping in on this thread, because my dd was accepted to Cornell Thursday night. But up until drop dead time, we had about a million and one conversations about what a cr*pshoot it is applying to selective schools. Also, since Thursday night, we have had many conversations about how lucky she is to have been chosen from a pool of so many kids who could easily also have been chosen, and how it's not really too much of a statement about her ability to succeed there or someone else's lack of ability. After you have the SATs they are looking for, it's really just the opinion of a few people on any given afternoon and how you fit in compared to the people they have already admitted. And at the Cornell Engineering School they don't even do interviews... so it comes down to just a few sheets of paper about you.

 

It is sort of a fine line I am walking between being so so proud of her and wanting her to know how proud I am of her hard work and at the same time helping her see the randomness... without making her feel like it doesn't mean anything, you know? Just being accepted somewhere doesn't make the experience or make her successful. It will be what she does with the opportunities she is presented with when she gets there.

 

One story I heard on NPR really made me appreciate the situation at these kinds of schools; I'll link it.

http://www.npr.org/2...issions-Process

 

I am sure your friend's son will be great wherever he lands!!!

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A couple of thoughts:

 

First, schools like to select early decision candidates so that the school's ratio of accepted students to student who actually enroll is high. No, matter how selective you are if half the people you admit turn you down you don't look so selective. So it is possible this kid is being held for the general pool because they felt sure he'd enroll either way.

 

Next, admissions officers in various articles I've read do love great essays, it is possible this kid did not write one. It's possible to be academically strong and yet lack that personal, introspective quality that shines in great college admittance essays. There are certainly those who've discussed this problem especially when it comes to boys.

 

It is also possible that some of his recommendations were tepid. Since most recommendations for traditional schools are never seen by the student, you could end up with a dud.

 

On the sinister side of guesses, this only applies to a student at a fairly well-heeled private school, in The Price of Admission there is the suggestion that counselors in those school control admissions and steer plums to students who have parents who have blessed the school with gifts. If he's at a public school, I doubt this is the case.

 

There's a corollary, if he is at a large diverse school, it's possible his guidance counselor dropped the ball somewhere. Or one of his references didn't send anything in.

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Do you know anyone directly or indirectly who was rejected despite excellent credentials? The parents really believed their child was a shoe-in. (This isn't a HSed child.)

No, but I've read about them on College Confidential. Qualified kids can be rejected for a variety of reasons. Maybe, as one of the other posters said, his application wasn't complete. Maybe they had a ton of applicants from his high school. If he had an interview, maybe it didn't go well.

 

I would be surprised that a well qualified, connected applicant would be rejected ED. I've heard that some really competitive colleges like to defer well qualified, connected candidates that they plan to reject later. They figure that the family will take the initial rejection harder than they would take a deferral and then a rejection.

 

If this were my student, I think I'd try to get into contact with admissions and ask why he was rejected and if his file was complete. You may not get an answer, but it's worth a try. I doubt there is anything that can be done, but if there is some issue with his school sending recommendations and/or transcripts, his parents would want to know so that they could address the problem for his other applications.

 

Best wishes to them,

Brenda

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Thanks that's really interesting. They learned a colleague of theirs daughter who also applied ED was accepted with 200 pt lower SATs and .25 lower gpa. So obviously they're not just looking at grades and scores. He has a list of 10 back ups he'll be applying to, some competitive and some not.

 

 

 

Just remembered something about Cornell that is probably relevent. There are 7 colleges, and each one has its own admissions office. The stats for each school are very different, so unless they were applying for the same program it would be hard to compare.

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I think sometimes it just comes down to eeny-meeny-miny-mo.

 

:iagree: I doubt there was anything at all wrong with the application or what was sent in. They just have way too many qualified applicants and one never really knows why they pick A and not B. The stats, themselves, (scores, etc) are there just to get one over the bar to be considered. Then they look and pick based upon everything else they want/need in a class.

 

Exactly. Maybe today they have too many perfect athletes. Maybe today they need a trombone player.

 

:iagree: In a different year they could have had the same candidates and selected differently without diminishing their class at all.

 

I only wish the student involved had ALREADY applied elsewhere. By waiting this long hoping they'd get ED they've shut themselves off from many good schools who could have offered nice merit aid, but had earlier dates to apply to be considered for it.

 

Note to those following behind... NEVER put all your eggs in one highly selective basket. The young lady at our school who I was hoping would make it into Stanford did, but she had a few nice backup schools in case she didn't. Everyone should apply to at least one (more if choosing selective schools) backups. If you wait until you hear about ED, you're simply too late for many other really good schools (for merit aid). It's an expensive decision.

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When we visited Vanderbilt we were told that they got far too many excellent applicants from our area (Chicagoland)and would always look to find students from more geographically diverse settings - an applicant from South Dakota, for example, would be more likely to be accepted than yet another similar applicant from a Chicago suburb. So some things are just out of your control. The colleges want to create as wide and diverse a student body as possible.

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:iagree: I doubt there was anything at all wrong with the application or what was sent in. They just have way too many qualified applicants and one never really knows why they pick A and not B. The stats, themselves, (scores, etc) are there just to get one over the bar to be considered. Then they look and pick based upon everything else they want/need in a class.

 

 

 

:iagree: In a different year they could have had the same candidates and selected differently without diminishing their class at all.

 

I only wish the student involved had ALREADY applied elsewhere. By waiting this long hoping they'd get ED they've shut themselves off from many good schools who could have offered nice merit aid, but had earlier dates to apply to be considered for it.

 

Note to those following behind... NEVER put all your eggs in one highly selective basket. The young lady at our school who I was hoping would make it into Stanford did, but she had a few nice backup schools in case she didn't. Everyone should apply to at least one (more if choosing selective schools) backups. If you wait until you hear about ED, you're simply too late for many other really good schools (for merit aid). It's an expensive decision.

 

I'm not sure I understand ED well enough. But does a student have the ability to apply ED as well as regular to other colleges at the same time? Is this what you're suggesting? In other words, not waiting until you have the ED results in hand before submitting other, regular admision, non-binding applications?

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When we visited Vanderbilt we were told that they got far too many excellent applicants from our area (Chicagoland)and would always look to find students from more geographically diverse settings - an applicant from South Dakota, for example, would be more likely to be accepted than yet another similar applicant from a Chicago suburb. So some things are just out of your control. The colleges want to create as wide and diverse a student body as possible.

 

Similarly, there was an observation in The Gatekeepers (about Wellesley) about rejecting a legacy in part because they were not accepting a more qualified student from the same high school. Part of the equation for the admissions counselors was keeping a good reputation for the college at the particular high schools. They didn't want to become the school that no one bothered with, but rather be the school that several applied to each year. Even though (or especially so that) they turned down most of those applying.

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I'm not sure I understand ED well enough. But does a student have the ability to apply ED as well as regular to other colleges at the same time? Is this what you're suggesting? In other words, not waiting until you have the ED results in hand before submitting other, regular admision, non-binding applications?

 

Absolutely. You can only choose one school to apply to ED, and if accepted, it's binding, but knowing that an acceptance may not happen, one should also be applying to other backup schools either EA or RD. If accepted at the ED, then the other applications were a waste of time and money, but to highly selective schools, NO acceptance for anyone is guaranteed, so having backups is wise. IF schools didn't have their scholarship applications/money due earlier, it wouldn't matter (and a few are still this way), but many other top schools have their merit aid deadlines between Nov and Dec 1, so waiting on a highly selective ED admissions is taking a big financial gamble.

 

If one is competitive for the selective school, they are also competitive for merit aid at many schools - but only if they applied early enough. They will likely still get in to places, but more costly than it might have had to be for them.

 

Any time one is thinking they are definitely going to get into highly selective school X they ought to look at the respective thread on college confidential and see those deferred or rejected... Most who are rejected have stats that "should" have gotten them accepted. There are simply too many applicants for the spots. Being in the top 25% of stats at these schools is meaningless as there are just too many in that category and they are mainly looking for a "class" not solely who could max the tests.

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Absolutely. You can only choose one school to apply to ED, and if accepted, it's binding, but knowing that an acceptance may not happen, one should also be applying to other backup schools either EA or RD. If accepted at the ED, then the other applications were a waste of time and money, but to highly selective schools, NO acceptance for anyone is guaranteed, so having backups is wise. IF schools didn't have their scholarship applications/money due earlier, it wouldn't matter (and a few are still this way), but many other top schools have their merit aid deadlines between Nov and Dec 1, so waiting on a highly selective ED admissions is taking a big financial gamble.

 

If one is competitive for the selective school, they are also competitive for merit aid at many schools - but only if they applied early enough. They will likely still get in to places, but more costly than it might have had to be for them.

 

Any time one is thinking they are definitely going to get into highly selective school X they ought to look at the respective thread on college confidential and see those deferred or rejected... Most who are rejected have stats that "should" have gotten them accepted. There are simply too many applicants for the spots. Being in the top 25% of stats at these schools is meaningless as there are just too many in that category and they are mainly looking for a "class" not solely who could max the tests.

 

So the application timeline would look something like:

 

Apply to Early Decision school

Apply to Early Action school(s?)

Apply to Regular Decision schools, prioritizing those with rolling admissions and/or early merit aid deadlines

Get result for ED application

Apply to other schools with later deadlines.

 

Does that sound about right?

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So the application timeline would look something like:

 

Apply to Early Decision school

Apply to Early Action school(s?)

Apply to Regular Decision schools, prioritizing those with rolling admissions and/or early merit aid deadlines

Get result for ED application

Apply to other schools with later deadlines.

 

Does that sound about right?

 

This sounds about right to me, with the understanding that if you are accepted to your ED school the student has to withdraw applications from everywhere else, most likely not knowing if (s)he would have scored significant merit aid.

 

In our case, because Cornell meets "100% of need" for all admitted students (with grants for all but a very small amount) and does not give merit aid, we were fairly certain that the offer would make the price of Cornell very competitive with NY State school tuition, and more competitive than the merit offers she was likely to get from other private schools. Luckily, we were right.

 

Of course, there is a difference between a school that you are paying full price for (or have a merit scholarship for) and one that you get aid to attend. In the first case, no matter how much more $$ you make (like if I got a part time job) the price of tuition is what it is. In the other case, the more $$ you make the more the school costs. As a result we have to be really careful about how I go out and get a job. I know people with kids in other 100% need schools who, by making just a little bit more $, have shifted into a higher tax bracket and had an increase in the EFC at the same time, and so ended up "worse off" than when they were making just a little less money. Not saying I shouldn't try to make $$ to defray the cost, just pointing out that it doesn't always turn out like you think it will. If my other kids were finished at home I would be looking for 2 full time jobs. :) As it is, I want to keep homeschooling my other kids and help pay for college, so we will see what we can do.

 

There's a list of full-financial-need-meeitng-schools here:

http://www.usnews.co...-financial-need

 

It may or may not be up to date; in fact Cornell has started including small federal loans in its offers just recently, so as always, it is best to call the school directly.

 

Now, does anyone need me to do any housework, babysitting, or music lessons?? I'm available......

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This was our situation last year, kind of. Some of you may remember my public whining here about my homeschooled ds who not only didn't get into his EA reach, he didn't get into any school except his safety. His qualifications sound similar to those in the OP's example, though his GPA was not 4.0 and his essay was probably very, very mediocre. He is happily and productively ensconced there at his safety now, complete with nice merit aid package, which makes us very happy.

 

I don't think for one minute that he "deserved" to get into a better school, particularly given that the "numbers" of his application were great, but the other parts, essay in particular, were not as good as they should have been. However, I can't lie and say that I wasn't surprised a bit that he did not get into Hopkins, where dh and I have worked for more than 20 years and he most definitely would have been in the top quarter of their class, at least, by the numbers. The bottom line is: *never* assume anything.

 

Any of you who are interested in a funny, but rather infuriating, take on the college application process should read "Crazy U" by Andrew Ferguson. It helped me understand the US News rankings and made it much clearer just how people can cheat the system if they choose to. I also finally got my son, by reading excerpts to him many months later, to understand what was expected of him (sell yourself), which is knowledge that I hope will serve him well in the future.

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So the application timeline would look something like:

 

Apply to Early Decision school

Apply to Early Action school(s?)

Apply to Regular Decision schools, prioritizing those with rolling admissions and/or early merit aid deadlines

Get result for ED application

Apply to other schools with later deadlines.

 

Does that sound about right?

 

Yes, that looks right to me. Many ED kids who think they are good competitors for ED only pick 2 or 3 others to apply to - those they know they are likely to get into with decent merit aid. Of course, some also pick a good handful of other highly selective schools, but again, those are lottery schools for all. The 2 or 3 others still give them their backups.

 

If one really wants merit aid or needs need-based aid, ED is usually not suggested as awards tend to be lower EXCEPT at schools that promise 100% with no loans (but beware that their 100% is not necessarily what you think is 100%).

 

Generally ED is used for full-pay capable students and any merit aid received is a bonus (many highly selective schools don't offer merit aid). Secondly it can be used for those highly selective schools that are known for great need-based aid where the parent is certain the funds will work out.

 

If in doubt or wanting to compare offers, the recommendation is to stick with Early Action when available.

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Ah and the preference for non ED is because you don't have the ability to compare and negotiate if the ED school says yes?

 

 

Yes, that is correct. If your kiddo applies ED and is accepted, you usually only have a few weeks to a month to make their enrollment deposit. So the decision is typically being made in late December/early January. You can only back out if the finances don't work, but by that time, the window to apply to other places, especially for merit aid, has passed or is closing quickly. You won't hear from other selective schools until March/April, so no ability to compare scholarships or financial aid offers.

 

I'm not really aware of any book that goes through all of this. I learned about it through reading here and on college confidential. I think it's hard to find concrete info on college applications/financing in a book because the whole arena is so individual. So many factors go into making the right decisions for your kiddo & your family, like: family finances, kiddo's grades & test scores, kiddo's athletic accomplishments, kiddo's extracurricular activities, kiddo's talent (for students interested in fine arts), your state of residence, kiddo's desired type of school (small, large, tech, arts, urban, rural, religious, secular, liberal, conservative, nearby, far away, military, trade, etc.), kiddo's minority status, kiddo's intended major, etc.

 

College confidential is a great resource because they have many sub-forums where you can learn/research things that are specific to your kiddo's situation. It's also usually a good source of up to date info since people post who are going through the process right now. Quite a bit of info in any book would become dated very quickly.

 

I've found that books like Crazy U & The Gatekeepers offer interesting insight into the process, but they really don't give you specifics on your kiddo's situation. I think they are very valuable for folks who are completely new to the college application process, though, as a starting point.

 

HTH,

Brenda

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Ah and the preference for non ED is because you don't have the ability to compare and negotiate if the ED school says yes?

 

Yes, and I agree with Brenda. College confidential is a great resource - just overlook that the majority of students posting on there are high achievers either in real life or in their pseudo life on the net. The parents and handful of guidance counselors or admissions reps are a wealth of information for many different paths.

 

ED is considered binding with the only "escape" being finances, but not because finances at school B were better - only if school A proves unaffordable IRL.

 

EA is not binding - it just gives you an earlier notification date. Some schools require an EA application to be considered for merit aid.

 

Final decisions for where you are actually going to college (without ED) is May 1st for all schools even though some imply they want to know sooner. Once you put a deposit down, that's final. You're only supposed to choose one and then you're done. Some students have started double or triple depositing, but that's not only unethical (since your deposit signifies your planned attendance and it's all in writing), some schools will rescind acceptances if they find out a student has put in multiple deposits. A few schools only ask for housing deposits - read carefully - those might not be binding and might be refundable if the final choice is elsewhere.

 

Final decisions for scholarship offers may come sooner even though they aren't really supposed to. That's a sticky point for some students, but right now, there's nothing stopping a school from having an earlier "notify" date on scholarships if they choose to.

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I am totally sure that my dd got rejected from some schools because of where we were living at the time. If she was already living in Alabama, she would have gotten in to our alma mater, probably. As it was, she got into almost all her colleges and got great scholarships. She is at a school where she gets full tuition scholarship.

 

This is why so many kids apply to 10 or more schools, even when they are the top students. There are lots of them.

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Final decisions for where you are actually going to college (without ED) is May 1st for all schools even though some imply they want to know sooner. Once you put a deposit down, that's final. You're only supposed to choose one and then you're done. Some students have started double or triple depositing, but that's not only unethical (since your deposit signifies your planned attendance and it's all in writing), some schools will rescind acceptances if they find out a student has put in multiple deposits. A few schools only ask for housing deposits - read carefully - those might not be binding and might be refundable if the final choice is elsewhere.

 

Final decisions for scholarship offers may come sooner even though they aren't really supposed to. That's a sticky point for some students, but right now, there's nothing stopping a school from having an earlier "notify" date on scholarships if they choose to.

 

 

I don't have a lot of experience with college admissions, because my senior has only been interested in one school. However, I'm not sure all schools view deposits this same way. The school she likes has a refundable deposit as well as rolling admissions. We paid the deposit at #1 school even before she applied to some other schools in case she changes her mind later in the process. At this school, you have to pay the general deposit before you can pay the housing deposit, which is important since there is typically a waiting list for housing.

 

I was looking over the school's scholarship and financial aid booklet today, and it mentioned how prospective students will be notified of scholarship offers. It mentions different procedures for students who have and have not paid their deposit. There is also information about how to accept/ decline the schlarship. There is no mention of you have to accept the scholarship if you have paid the deposit.

 

That said, we have not paid a deposit at the other schools where she has been accepted.

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The school she likes has a refundable deposit as well as rolling admissions. We paid the deposit at #1 school even before she applied to some other schools in case she changes her mind later in the process. At this school, you have to pay the general deposit before you can pay the housing deposit, which is important since there is typically a waiting list for housing.

 

 

 

If the school says it's a refundable deposit, then I wouldn't worry. I suspect they are the exception, not the rule though. One should look at any deposit info carefully to make sure one knows if what they are sending in is supposed to be binding or not - and whether it's refundable or not if not binding - most housing deposits aren't binding. (Some are refundable, some aren't with the latter.)

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How does one find out if a school accepts fewer students from a region, state, or high school ? DD wants to apply to a highly competative collge--Princeton. She has the grades and test scores but very few club or community service credits because we live so darn far away from everything. I'm thinking unusual circumstances maybe her selling point.

 

Many thanks to the posters of this thread and links provided.

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How does one find out if a school accepts fewer students from a region, state, or high school ? DD wants to apply to a highly competative collge--Princeton. She has the grades and test scores but very few club or community service credits because we live so darn far away from everything. I'm thinking unusual circumstances maybe her selling point.

 

Many thanks to the posters of this thread and liks provided.

 

Go to this page from their website:

 

http://www.princeton.edu/admission/applyingforadmission/admission_statistics/

 

and click on the map to see how many students came from your state. The lower the number, the better your chances could be knowing that geographical diversity is only one segment, of course.

 

Most colleges have a similar page if you hunt around on their site long enough. ;)

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Go to this page from their website:

 

http://www.princeton.edu/admission/applyingforadmission/admission_statistics/

 

and click on the map to see how many students came from your state. The lower the number, the better your chances could be knowing that geographical diversity is only one segment, of course.

 

Most colleges have a similar page if you hunt around on their site long enough. ;)

 

I've seen such info labeled class profile or class portrait.

 

Also remember the percentages are of the class being represented. It doesn't mean they accepted x% of the students with a certain score or gap who applied.

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Wildiris, another useful piece of info can be found by looking for each college's Common Data Set. Most schools have them online and a quick google search will bring them up. Here's the most recent CDS for Princeton. If you look in section C7 of each CDS, you'll find the relative importance of various admissions considerations, including course rigor, gpa, rank, extracurriculars, geographical residence, etc. Princeton says there that they do give consideration to the student's state of residence.

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Here is what we did with our second child and what we will do with our last. We didn't with the first child since he had different priorities and was 16 when he went to college so he needed a different type of school than the others did or will.

First our dd applied to several schools that did no application fee if apply by X date- those were much earlier than the normal ED or EA dates but the decision came very fast along with a hefty scholarship which reduced her fears a lot. Then she also applied to several school with rolling admissions- including the state school she is now attending. Then came EA deadlines - which are necessary to keep in order to get some scholarships. Then finally came schools that were regular admission. As it was, none of her schools had a April 1 decision day so by mid March, she knew where she stood with each school. She didn't do an ED because she had no favorite and many of the schools didn't offer it anyway. IF she had, that would have been the same time as an EA school except we would have know and decided earlier.

 

Now my last kid is still a ways away from college- sophomore. SHe does have a school she really likes but it doesn't have the major she may want to pursue. So she will have to decide whether to do the school, do it in a combination 3-2, or just go to another. Currently, it looks like she may have the GI bill to pay for school and if so, and she decides that college is still her top choice, she will do ED there. But since we live in a state with colleges doing rolling admissions, she will have first applied to a state school or more than one, and gotten her acceptance from there.

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