Want it and Show it

July 25, 2013

I went to a public high school in suburbia NY that had a 98% graduation rate. The main topic at dinner parties was college admissions (“Did you hear that Adam actually went to Penn in person to confront the admissions office about rejecting his son?”). So, given this backdrop and the historical trend that my school’s valedictorian and salutatorian were guaranteed admission to Harvard, Yale and Princeton (occasionally the rogue math genius would choose MIT over HYP), imagine my surprise when I found out the valedictorian of the 2012 class with a perfect GPA and a near perfect SAT score was “only” accepted to Brown and Carnegie Mellon (“Yeah, of course they’re both great schools, but, I mean, I would be devastated if my daughter was #1 in her class and couldn’t get in anywhere better.”). Yes, this was the environment I grew up in.

I take this as a sign that the college admissions process really is getting tougher and stellar academic performance can no longer be taken for granted. Or, prestige and the “my kid is better than your kid” mentality no longer holds the same kind of appeal. Though, knowing my town, you would have to beat me over the head with hard statistics that show kids are choosing the best school for them versus “the best school” in order for me to believe that.

Schools are looking for that extra something. This trend was definitely reflected in the year I interviewed Duke applicants. I didn’t even have the scores of these kids going into the interviews; my evaluations were solely based on personality, drive, poise and demonstrated interest in the school. It no longer cuts it these days to be a superstar student with a kickass SAT score. You need to show that you deserve a spot in that school over all the other amazing applicants. You need to want it. And you need to show it in your application. And it goes back to what I talked about in a previous post: schools are taking “fit” into consideration just as much as you are. They want to admit students they know will add to and complement the school’s student body culture.

 

(Side note directed at incoming freshmen, class of 2017: Are you forreal??)



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