High School 2 College

April 2, 2010

Did You Hear? It’s Harder Than Ever to Get into College — and What to Do About It.

The record low acceptance rates of selective colleges this year are all over the news and all over the internet.  Everyone who knows a teenager has heard of kids who have stellar grades, high SATs, many activities, community service, and sparkling personalities who not only didn’t get into their early decision school, they didn’t get into several schools they thought were fairly safe bets.

The Washington Post reports on this year’s admission rates.  The Huffington Post’s article, “Application Rates Up, Acceptance Rates Down” says a lot. The New York Times admissions blog has a chart so you can see how tiny your chance was of getting into your top choice school.

Why am I telling you this?

First of all, if you are currently a college student, you should be grateful that you got in when you did.  Another year or two and you might not have made it to the school you’re in now.  Basically, the incoming freshmen at your school are probably more impressive candidates than you were.  If your parents went to a selective college, chances are they couldn’t get in to that same school now.

Second, if you are a high school senior and you didn’t get into the schools you expected to get into, it’s not your fault.  You’re in extremely good company.  Getting a “we regret to inform you” email (why do all the articles talk about a thin or fat envelope when everyone is notified by email?) doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have been a huge success at that dream school.  It certainly doesn’t mean you won’t get a good education.  Those who got into every school they applied to probably didn’t reach high enough for that dream school.

Third, if you are a high school senior and you did get into your dream school, be humble.  Don’t brag, don’t gloat.  It might be that you’re male and they needed more males this year.  It might be that you play the French horn and your friend plays the trombone, and they happen to need French horn players more this year.  Of course you worked hard, but so did most of those who didn’t get in.

But mostly I want to address the high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. There ARE things you can do to improve your chance of getting in. It may seem insincere, but if you want to get in, you have to:

  • Maintain good grades from freshman year through the middle of senior year. Colleges don’t see quarterly grades, only year-end grades, so if you’re starting to slip – even in 9th grade – reach out for help.  Stay after school to talk to your teacher, study with a friend, ask your parents and guidance counselor for help, hire a tutor.
  • Prepare for the SATs. Don’t wait until the end of junior year or -heaven forbid – the beginning of senior year.  Start preparing now.  You don’t need an SAT book or a course.  In fact, the best thing you can do to prepare is pay attention in math class and READ.  Read a magazine, read the newspaper, read a novel – even a trashy one.  Just read. Magazines like TIME and Newsweek are wonderful for vocabulary and reading comprehension.
  • Take the right classes. Colleges are concerned with grades for sure, but they care deeply about the rigor of your classes.  That means if the school offers an honors class, take it.  You don’t need to take ALL honors or AP classes, but you should be taking on as much challenge as you can handle.  I encourage students to give the honors class a try.  Warn your guidance counselor that you might need to slip back to the regular level class so he or she can schedule your classes so you can switch to a lower level without disrupting all of your other classes.
  • Find a passion and work it. If you like dance, you should be dancing in school productions, you should be dancing in a dance school, you should be volunteering to put on a dance show at your local senior center or nursing home, you should be teaching elementary kids to dance after school.  If you like math, join the math team, tutor lower level students in math, volunteer to help struggling elementary school students in math, teach seniors computer skills for free at a senior center.  Schools are looking for something they call consistency — they want to see you involved on every level in your area of interest.
  • Don’t waste your summers. Travelling and camp are fun but they won’t get you into college.  Take some courses.  Many colleges have summer programs where you can live on campus and take college courses for credit.  Volunteer. Work – not at K-Mart, but in your area of interest.

If you got into a good school, congratulations! If you got into any old school, you might just love it.  And if you don’t, you can join the thousands each year who transfer.  If you still have a year or more before you have to worry about college applications, there’s much you can do now to make your college admission quest successful.

Wendy Segal


Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: