As college admissions tighten, students must consider options

Q: I want to make sure my daughter has a balanced list. She has her heart set on the Ivy League. Should I worry?

Every year when I review the stats for the incoming class of freshmen, I feel a sense of dread knowing that each year the percentage of admitted students drops. This year almost feels laughable with Harvard and Columbia admitting only 6 percent of students, with Yale and Stanford following close behind with a 7 percent admittance rate. One begins to wonder how anyone gets into these schools without a significant hook. I think we are now seeing more students applying to a greater number of schools, which has been simplified with the Common Application as well as a concerted effort on the part of colleges to recruit a broader socioeconomic range of students both here and abroad.

When I help families create a college list for their student, I am more cautious than ever in ensuring that the list has a good number of probable and safety schools as well as a few stretch schools. I believe a student should shoot for a stretch school if he or she feels that they can convey on the application that they have something to offer each other than cannot be met at another institution and that they fall within the range of admitted students in regards to grades and scores. On the other hand, simply adding more stretch schools to the mix does not increase the likelihood of being admitted, as top schools generally read an application using similar criteria. On the list serves that I subscribe to, I am seeing too many counselors across the country scrambling to find schools for their top students who were rejected at every school they applied to. This should not happen.

I am also more cautious about assuming that a student with top scores will automatically be admitted to the UW. As the UW continues to grapple with budget cuts, fewer in-state students who routinely had been admitted to the UW will be granted admission as we make room for out-of-state students who pay considerably more tuition dollars. While we all feel some anger and frustration with this current system, it is imperative that we change the way we are talking to our students about the other state institutions. I see too many students from WSU and Western being admitted to top post-secondary schools, law schools or medical school believe that the UW is the only show in town. It is imperative that students place aside any preconceived notions of a school and consider adding schools to the mix that do not have the selectivity or prestige that they feel that they deserve. As parents you can help guide that conversation to help your student recognize that college acceptance is not simply the prize to be garnered for years of hard work.

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