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So You Want to Go to Harvard? (or Stanford or Vanderbilt or UNC or…) Tips and suggestions to becoming an attractive applicant at extremely selective colleges.

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Presentation on theme: "So You Want to Go to Harvard? (or Stanford or Vanderbilt or UNC or…) Tips and suggestions to becoming an attractive applicant at extremely selective colleges."— Presentation transcript:

1 So You Want to Go to Harvard? (or Stanford or Vanderbilt or UNC or…) Tips and suggestions to becoming an attractive applicant at extremely selective colleges and universities Our motivation for creating this presentation was to give students who have aspirations for these institutions the information they need to become viable candidates by the time they reach senior year. It is heartbreaking for us when students come into our office as juniors with the hopes of going to one of these schools and it is too late for them. By reducing the uncertainty of what needs to be done, we hope to lower the anxiety of our students. Though the numbers are daunting, the main points of the program are 1) it’s just not grades and test scores; and 2) don’t think, “it’s impossible.” Instead, take action and here’s what you can do to make your goals happen.

2 Why? What are some potential advantages to attending a highly selective school? The name does open some doors Students enjoy top-notch education and professors Schools are generally wealthy and offer many opportunities Will be surrounded and motivated by other highly intelligent and motivated students Opportunity to make connections and draw upon influential alumni network With these next two slides, we wanted students to think about why they might set out to pursue the goal of attending a highly selective college to make sure they are doing it for the right reasons.

3 Why not? What are some disadvantages to attending a highly selective college or university? Often expensive Often far from home Might be intimidating or competitive This isn’t really a disadvantage---but there are no guarantees. You still have to perform well while there

4 Inside the Numbers 2012 Some overall acceptance rates this year: Harvard 5.9%Stanford 6.6%Yale 6.8% Princeton 7.9%Dartmouth 11% Wash U. 15.4%Northwestern 15.3% Amherst 11.9% Duke 11.9% U Chicago 13%Vanderbilt 14.5% UNC (out of state) 14% Although the number of high school students has leveled off, the acceptance rates continue to plummet. Reasons include: the Internet, the Common Application, stronger international competition and availability of financial aid. As a result, it’s important not to pick one school as the only one that will make a student happy. Let’s be optimistic, but understand that, with these kind of numbers, disappointment is also part of this game, if one chooses to play it.

5 Vanderbilt 2012 Acceptance Rate: 14.5% (28,300 applications) Early Decision: 22% Regular Decision 12.5% Average SAT: Acceptance Rate: 55.1% (9,754 applications) Average SAT: 1321 This slide is included to demonstrate one particularly dramatic change in the admissions picture at a school prized by many of our students. During this time period, Vanderbilt doubled the size of their admissions staff and charged them to find students across the country and around the world. They have done that, which explains the results you see on this slide. The positive thing is that Vanderbilt has become a more diverse and national university, but the downside is that it has become much harder for our students to be admitted.

6 Stanford (McCallie) These slides are included to show that strong grades and test scores are usually a prerequisite for, but not a guarantee of admission at these institutions. Something more is needed to get the applicant out of the large pool of academically qualified students. Students should aim for these high marks, but also remember to develop their passions to keep them healthy and happy, as well as increase their chances of admission.

7 Princeton (McCallie)

8 Vanderbilt (GPS)

9 University of Virginia (GPS) It’s good to remember here and other state universities like UNC-Chapel Hill that a student’s state of residence may make a big difference. While you can’t access that information, we can. So students should definitely seek their counselor’s help in analyzing these scattergrams.

10 Davidson (McCallie) This scattergram is a good example of how smaller liberal arts colleges are often a little less hung up on numbers and choose to emphasize personal and extracurricular contributions. This makes sense because they are crafting a small community where relationships matter and where they can’t simply rely on numbers to achieve diversity of backgrounds and talents. They need to make sure, for example, that they have a tuba player or a soccer goalie or a community service leader.

11 The following slides are profiles of students who applied to highly selective colleges and received results of varying degrees of success. The idea is to help students understand the types of profiles that are attractive to these colleges and to help them think about how to develop their own extracurricular passions to the fullest.

12 The All-Around 4.15 GPA, 1540 SAT (800 Math) 8 AP classes with all 4’s and 5’s Honors Scholar JV baseball Mock Trial Resident Advisor – nice comments about performance Science Bowl Accepted: BC, BU, Central Florida, Chicago, Dartmouth, Penn Denied: Harvard, Yale, Princeton Great academic numbers and a variety of activities resulted in some excellent acceptances. Probably the lack of an overwhelmingly outstanding extracurricular passion is why some of the super-highly selectives said no.

13 The Tennis Player 3.69 GPA, 1450 SAT (on first try), 9 AP classes Applied early decision, recruited by coach Voracious reader outside of class Original thinker Top six tennis player at McCallie for two years, ranked #2 in Tennessee Not many applicants from Tennessee at Middlebury Accepted: Middlebury Very good, but not spectacular GPA. Athletic recruitment plus early decision probably made the difference in this decision. Though Division III schools like Middlebury, Washington & Lee and Sewanee don ’ t offer athletic scholarships, recruiting can definitely be a big help in gaining admissions.

14 The Test Whiz 3.92 GPA, 1510 SAT (780 Math), three 4’s and nine 5’s on 12 AP tests Climbing team Surfer Computer Science major Accepted: Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Southern Cal Denied: Cornell, Harvard, Stanford Standout academic numbers, but fairly limited extracurriculars. As a result, student did well at large state universities and engineering programs that value numbers highly, but less well at the schools that practice the most holistic review.

15 The Intellectual Musician 3.88 GPA, 1520 SAT, 7 AP classes Member of MENSA Classical guitar quartet Completed BC Calculus as soph Attended Harvard and Stanford summer programs Took Advanced Italian at UTC as a senior RA, excellent comments about contributions National Prudential Spirit of Community award, project playing guitar to earn $ for houses in Nicaragua Accepted: Brown, Cal Tech, Carnegie Mellon, Chicago, Columbia, Harvey Mudd, MIT, Northwestern, Stanford Denied: Hopkins (WL), Princeton Very strong academic numbers. Lots of academic enrichment and passion beyond just hard classes. Student’s real standout feature, though, is his initiative and dedication to community service and the national-level recognition he received for it. Colleges really value experiences that students create for themselves over those that are “packaged” for them. Also pays to notice that even getting into Ivies and Stanford doesn’t guarantee admission everywhere. Perhaps he didn’t demonstrate enough interest in Johns Hopkins…

16 The Servant-Leader 4.08 GPA, 35 ACT, 7 AP’s Earned Eagle Scout at 12 State winner of Prudential Insurance Spirit of Community Award in middle school State Eagle Scout of the Year Founded a non-profit to collect food for a local food bank Awarded Presidential Volunteer Service Award National winner of Prudential Insurance spirit of Community award in high school President of Toys for Tots and Food Bank at McCallie School Habitat for Humanity, Boys Club, Deacon of Student Vestry, Science Bowl Resident Advisor, Drama Handbells student leader Accepted: Duke, Harvard, UNC, Stanford, Vanderbilt Denied: Yale Obviously this student has very good academic numbers, but his success probably results from his incredible dedication to community service AND the national recognition he received--- three national awards, one state award. In addition, the formation of his own non-profit shows the independence and initiative to create his own opportunities, not just take advantage of those provided for him.

17 The Workhorse 4.00 GPA, 1340 SAT, 8 AP classes, mostly 3’s and 4’s on AP Tests Two-way varsity football starter Varsity track shot-putter TEPS NHS Young Democrats Accepted: Emory, Furman, Rhodes, Sewanee, UTK, Wake Denied: Carnegie Mellon, Vanderbilt Great guy, hard worker. Perhaps his lower test scores hurt at the most selective places. Also, he was successful at places where he could play football or help the track team, but those abilities didn’t get as much “credit” at places like Vanderbilt where he could not contribute. It’s important for students to find the right match.

18 The Scholar 4.24, 2400 SAT, 36 ACT, 16 AP’s, three 800’s on subject tests, more academic awards than you can count National Merit Semi-finalist Speaks four languages Yearbook Editor, Model UN (Multiple Best Delegate, Best Position Paper Awards), Selected for National MUN Conference, Spectrum editor, Science Club/Science Olympiad Summer Science New Mexico State, had research paper submitted to Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Summer internship at Rockefeller University in the neurobiology and behavior lab Chattanooga Youth Leadership Program - chair of the marketing and corporate sale committee Accepted: Harvard, MIT, Princeton It’s still possible to overwhelm even the Harvards of the world with flat-out academic brilliance. BUT, since those places reject a MAJORITY of both valedictorians and applicants with perfect test scores, it may well be that her academic activities and awards outside the classroom were what got her in. Demonstrating academic passion outside the classroom is huge.

19 The Admissions Decision: What these colleges look for Grades and Course Selection –take the most challenging courses you can in the areas you demonstrate interest and aptitude –make A’s and A+’s as often as you can Colleges don’t expect students to take every single AP course their school offers, especially if it overloads them into poor performance. They do expect students to fully explore the most challenging courses in the areas they say they are passionate about and good at. As stated previously, going above and beyond the classroom---independent study, academic enrichment opportunities, etc---weighs heavily.

20 The Admissions Decision: What these colleges look for Test scores –read a lot to increase your chances for high scores on the SAT, ACT –do individual preparation –take Subject tests after the relevant class –start testing process early enough to have time to retake It’s easy to criticize colleges for using test scores since they are not great predictors of college success. But, it’s also easy to see why they use them: they really provide the only standard point of comparison across thousands of high schools. Many colleges like to say that test scores aren’t “that important”…until they explain to us why a student didn’t get accepted! They are important and worth the time it takes to prepare. That said, there are a growing number of schools that are test-optional, mostly small liberal arts colleges. These can be a good option for students who continue to struggle with their test scores.

21 The Admissions Decision: What these colleges look for Activities –pursue your interests with great passion –create your own opportunities –have an academic interest you pursue beyond the classroom –aim for recognition at McCallie/GPS, Chattanooga and beyond –talk to your coach about what is required to be recruited as an athlete Colleges really value activities and accomplishments that student are truly passionate about because these are the ones they will continue to pursue on the college campus. Students should not try to do a little of everything, but to focus on their true interests. This leads to health and happiness, as well as an attractive resume.

22 The Admissions Decision: What these colleges look for Essays –practice the craft of good writing –keep a journal, practice introspection –good activities lead to good essays –consider the Common Application questions ahead of time –start early to give yourself time to rewrite This slide is mostly self-explanatory. I will say that colleges tell us that applications from McCallie seem “natural” and not overly processed. It is important to show the true voice of the student (not a parent or counselor), but it should be the best voice. This is one area that students too often neglect: giving themselves enough time in their busy schedules to craft the best writing they can. Very often these essays and short answers are the tie-breakers among highly qualified students, so they are highly important.

23 The Admissions Decision: What these colleges look for Recommendations –participate in class –interact with your teachers beyond classroom discussion –be open to the idea of a teacher as a mentor or friend –prepare a resume/information packet for teachers Accessibility to teachers through small classes, dorm life, coaching and extracurriculars is one of the great advantages of a school like McCallie. Students should definitely fully avail themselves of this great resource.

24 The Admissions Decision: What these colleges look for Demonstrated Interest –visit the school officially with a tour and information session –meet admissions representatives when they travel locally and cultivate a relationship –get on the mailing list –cultivate a relationship with a professor –cultivate a relationship with a coach by calling, ing or filling out recruiting questionnaire –apply Early Decision if it’s offered and if it’s the right move for you and your family personally/financially These activities demonstrate interest on behalf of a student and allow the school to get to know the student better. Colleges know that students who file “stealth applications” (those that are the first contact a college has from the student) are much less likely to matriculate at that school, so they want to accept students who demonstrate their interest in and knowledge of the university. It should be GENUINE contact, not by rote just because a student is “supposed” to do it.

25 The Admissions Decision: What these colleges look for Connections –be related to Bruce Springsteen, Bill Gates or President Obama –have parents donate a dorm –do household chores/babysitting for college counselors –rely on connections with people who actually know you For the most part, connections play a lesser role than they did 30, 40, 50 years ago, which is a good thing. For the most part, the process is the most fair and democratic that it’s ever been. There are circumstances where a connection might help, and we are happy to help you utilize one effectively. If you don’t have any connections, don’t panic. Most people don’t and mostly it doesn’t matter.

26 Remember The school with the ‘biggest’ name is not necessarily the best fit for you. There is more than one “great fit” school for you. Don’t get too hung up on one college, but early decision can sometimes be a good option if you settle on a favorite. This is fun…sometimes…if you decide that it is. We hope this presentation helps students understand what is required of them if they are interested in being a competitive applicant at these schools. When we talk to students in our offices and help them create a prospective list of schools, we are also certain to help them see that there are other great schools similar to these but a little easier to get into.


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