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Are these numbers correct?


Replies to: Are these numbers correct?

  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 252
    edited May 2013
    BigDaddy88, have your read some books like "A is for Admissions", and "What the Ivy Leagues Really Want"? Both dated, older books, but a lot of the info is relevant and it gives readers a good sense of what a "good" applicant to a top school really is. Many years ago, when I lived in an area with a public school system that was considered by the residents and the district itself to be pretty danged good, really way up there, I could not understand how such a huge high school with a graduating class of close to a thousand kids, would only have 1-3 kids going to HPY, and maybe a handful more to the other highly selective schools, and, yet, the independent school about 10 miles away had about a quarter of their kids going to such school with 1/10th the number of graduates.

    What I learned was that a truly good SAT score was far higher and more complex than I thought, since 5 parts (3 SAT1, 2 SAT2s) were used. That class rank could really impact kids at such schools, and that the school profile showing AP test score distributions could be an issue. Also, things that were a big whoopy do at the school counted for a sarcastic "big whoop" to the selective schools admissions office. The bland, formula recommendations from such schools can really hurt the kids.

    Basically, the test score cutoffs are pretty danged high, much higher than I had expected. The difficulty of curriculum could be a big issue if the kid takes most of his AP courses senior year and the school has a history of low test scores the APs. ECs have to be of the national level to gain attention, and no, all state band and stuff like that is really penny ante to these schools as are things like NHS, Student council and other things that give a parent and student the false impression that the kid is hot stuff. Recommendations need to be super good, and are rated along with the grades, test scores, ECs. That standing out in those areas is very, very difficult. When you have blase refs from teachers and counselors, you are already behind the 8 ball, and sorry to say, a lot of public school recommenders do a lousy job in that area for selective college sweepstakes. The top private schools tend to spend a lot of time in that area and those teachers and counselors know how to write those refs, and yes, I've seen the difference. Like night and day. A miracle any of those kids get into HPY from some of those publics. Class rank can hurt students at schools that rank because of the way the an Academic Index is calculated. When there are a lot of kids getting really good grades at a grade inflated school that ranks, those who are the true academic jewels can get buried with a lower class rank. Top privates are given a whole other chart, as are schools that don't rank. The whole Academic Index thing is set up so that to give the top kids (like #s1-3) the biggest boost, pretty much ruins the chances of those with lower class rank when that could also be very good.

    Of course, when one is looking at the classes at some of these private schools, you see that a larger than usual (usual meaning most public schools) number of kids are legacies, celebrities, development and "friends of" which give them a leg up in the process too. At some schools the ad coms of some of the selective colleges are great friends with teachers, counselors, adminstration of a school, like really great friends. And, yes, all of that makes a difference.

    So the number of true open spaces, when diversity, athletics, first generation, development, alums, celebrity, special requests from departments, "friends of" are all taken care of, turns out to be a very low number. So when the admissions stats are in single digits already, the chances of getting into a school when you are not in any of those categories and have no national recognition in anything are about zippo. You would need near perfect test scores subject tests and ACT/SAT1s, an over the top curriculum in high school, ranked 1-3 in class rank, ECs on a national excellence scale,, not just the greatest in the school, community or even state, but nationally, with a hook preferably that the college likes, recs over the top and written by those who seem to have their heart in the references, and then essays that truly add another dimension to the student.
  • calmomcalmom Posts: 43
    edited May 2013
    BigDaddy -- the problem with your analysis is that your daughter also is in competition with kids like my daughter, who tends to test at around the 93% level-- but excels in academics and stands out in other ways. Maybe not at the "tippy top" Ivies, but you made it clear in your OP that you were looking at top 20 and beyond.

    You can't write off the lower scorers any more than a 6'4" basketball player can ignore the 6 footers at basketball tryouts. Being tall may be an asset, but it's not nearly as important as how well the person can play.

    The colleges aren't looking at it from the top, they are looking at it from their "bottom" -- that is, what is the minimum score that they will generally consider. You can figure that out from the CDS-- it's not the 25% mark used for median score range, but something below that.

    Obviously because colleges are looking at the whole package, the lower scorers need have other strengths. But the "strengths" can come from all over: athletics, arts, some other narrow but impressive distinction. (Is the kid a published author? Established blogger? Creator of a successful charity or fund-raising initiative?)

    So yes, the competition is steep, but you could approach it from another way -- figure out how many high schools there are in the US, figure every high school has to have a valedictorian, and then figure out how many valedictorians are competing for college spots. (And come up with equally daunting numbers, especially if your daughter only turns out to be her class Salutatorian). There would be somewhat more validity in that, simply because colleges probably value GPA and top class rank more than test scores. (A kid with super high grades and mediocre test scores probably has a better chance of admission at most colleges than a kid with super high test scores and mediocre grades).

    In any case, it sounds like your daughter has the whole package - so no need to worry. She should do fine if she has a couple of true safeties on her list that she is happy to attend (often the flagship public).

    Keep in mind that the majority of the best, top students are far more likely to attend their state's flagship public U. than an elite private, because of the impact of finances and geography. Admission to those schools tends to be more predictable -- for example, even with weaker test scores my daughter could count the Univ. of California system as a "safety" because her GPA and class standing gave her guaranteed admission status.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 252
    edited May 2013
    I just want to reiterate that a 2400 on the SAT1 may not even be something taken into account. The SATs are looked at on a 4000 scale, and are often rated 1-5. So a 4000 would get the same 5 score , say a 3850, maybe and someone who did great on the ACTs but not so well on the two SAT2s could be out of the running. That 4.0 UW, translated to a class rank can look not so good. They do compare kids to others in their school. There are schools with a whole lot of 4.0 and then the kids are class ranked on a weighted basis, and, yes, some kids could end up #9 or #10 which can crash that Academic Index that some of these schools use. I've actually seen it work out that way.

    And for all the down play on AP classes, when your kid goes to a large good, but not at the very top (like TJ in VA or Scarsdale in NY) high school, something needs to be out there to show that the courses taken are right up there with the top kids in the country. Which means a couple of 5s in some important AP courses junior year have a lot of rate in that all important curriculum scale especially if the school's AP test score report card is not so hot. At an independent school I know, the kids almost all get 4s and 5s on their AP tests, so those taking a bunch of APs Senior year, it is presumed those kids are going to know the material These schools have a track record with certain select colleges anyways. But if your kid is coming from a school with a lot of grade inflation, like more than half the kids on the honor rolls and lots of APs and honors, but few 4s and 5s on the Exams themselves, the difficulty of curriculum is not going to be getting a high grade, unless your kid can show he's the thoroughbred in that lot.
  • calmomcalmom Posts: 43
    edited May 2013
    I do think that you can draw some conclusions based on posts on CC. They are mostly in the category of existence proofs (i.e., there exists student X such that X has a 2400 on the SAT I + a 4.0 UW GPA + add other qualifications here, and X was rejected from College G). In order to discredit the existence proof, you would have to claim that every post by someone claiming to be such a student was a fabrication.

    I agree with that, and want to point out that the "existence proof" goes the other way as well, i.e.:

    There exists student X such that X has a 1900 on the SAT I and a 3.8 UW GPA + add other qualifications here, and X was accepted at College G.

    It happens.

    I am grateful to the posters on CC who have shared their unexpectedly good results, because of the truism, you can't get into any college you haven't applied to. (At least not on the upper end of the scale of selectivity).

    In my experience, CC'ers tend to be overly harsh in their estimation of "chances". There was a kid from my d's high school, good class ranking & GPA, lots of public-service type EC's, 1300-range SAT scores - wanted to go to Ivies. He posted on a chances thread and the response was uniform -- his SATs were too weak, not a chance -- the posters encourage him to look at the top LACs (little Ivies) instead. He ended up at Harvard, turning down spots at Yale & Columbia. No surprise at all for those of us who knew him -- but obviously a "surprise" on CC.

    I think that one problem is that CC may be dominated by students who attend very elite & highly competitive high schools, so they may be undone in their predictions by failure to consider the college's interest in geographic & social diversity. We don't really see all that many kids getting SAT scores above 2100 in my neck of the woods -- my guess is that the top schools look at the scores of graduates of California public schools in a California context. Top 2% in California is lower than top 2% in many states, higher than others. (You can verify that easily by looking at NM qualifying ranges, a stat that I am sure college ad comes are aware of).

    Looking at from the other side (the local angle) -- it's easy to see what the history has been of elite admissions from the high school that the kid attends. Never sent any kid to an Ivy? Then it's a long shot for any applicant, and the applicant probably has to be pretty impressive in many ways. Does the school send a handful of kids to elite privates every year, maybe 1 or 2 to an Ivy? Then the kid pretty much has to be one of the top performers and standouts at that school to have a good chance at the Ivy? Do 15-20 kids get into Ivies every year? Then hopefully the high school with that track record has a knowledgeable guidance counselor and its own Naviance data to share -- a counselor who has been on staff for several years at such a high school would probably be better at predicting results than strangers on the internet.
  • calmomcalmom Posts: 43
    edited May 2013
    the chances of getting into a school when you are not in any of those categories and have no national recognition in anything are about zippo.

    But that just isn't true. I have too many "existence proof" data points to buy into that.

    It may be true from your perspective: the experience at the high school your kids attended, looking at it from the angle of how many and what type of students apply vs. who is accepted.

    But it is a different picture from the other end. (i.e., getting the "back story" from my daughter's circle of friends who are graduates of Columbia). They are smart, they are talented.. but they didn't have hooks, they aren't legacies, and they didn't have national recognition, etc. High SAT scores- yes - but not perfect.

    I don't think that these kids are flukes. I think that the admission process is subjective and that kids get selected because the admission readers happens to like what they see. Is there a minimum cut off? Sure. Does the AI govern? Well the author of one of those books you quoted told me quite firmly that it was a waste of time for my daughter to apply to her alma mater with her test scores (exact words: "they won't even look at her") -- so I would take the rest of that stuff with a grain of salt as well. The admissions counselor is looking at the problem from the large end of the funnel and making predictions accordingly.

    When my d. was in high school, I got very useful info and advice from a guy who later wrote a book called "Winning the College Admissions Game". Worked for us. It's a strategic approach to college admissions, not a stats or "chances" based approach, and certainly not an elite-focused approach. It's about looking at things from the ad coms perspective -- figuring out what the applicant has to offer the colleges, how to put together an application that highlights those qualities, and identifying the colleges that are going to value those qualities.
  • calmomcalmom Posts: 43
    edited May 2013
    I'd add that on CC and elsewhere, I am always seeing people misuse statistics. It is a common fallacy-- for example, it's the reason that people fail to plan adequately for disasters. That is, if there is a 99% chance that my house won't ever burn down, why bother with a smoke alarm or insurance? (I'm sure the odds in favor of houses not burning down are even better than that. That's why fire insurance is relatively inexpensive to buy).

    Statistical information works on a broad scale for prediction and planning, so it certainly is valuable for the agencies involved to use them. The colleges need to plan their budgets around statistical models that predict the types of students who will apply and be accepted in future years. If they are "need blind", then those statistical predictions are vital to ensure that year after year, they somehow manage to accept the same percentage of needy students without ever actually looking at their level of need in making a decision.

    But statistical models cannot apply to an individual case. There are always going to be students who are on the tail end of the distribution who are admitted. No matter what -- there will always be outliers. Any student from any high school who sends in an application may end up being the outlier who gets in despite seemingly impossible odds. Qualitative information can help understand whether there are common factors among the outliers - that is why we tend to talk about "hooks" and "tip factors" - but they aren't all that useful when it comes to making predictions.
  • mihcal1mihcal1 Posts: 3
    edited May 2013
    Every time we have one of these threads about grades and scores and getting accepted (or not), someone pops up and says that their kid with blah blah grades and blah blah scores had "amazing" essays and "fabulous" recommendations.

    My question is: how the heck do they know? Did they actually read enough essays to know how their kid's essays compare to the thousands that an admissions officer will read each year? And even if they did see the letters of recommendation written about their kid, they certainly won't have seen anyone else's letters. So what basis do they have for assessing how their kid's application compares to those submitted by the rest of the applicant pool??
  • calmomcalmom Posts: 43
    edited May 2013
    I used to read essays for CC'ers who wanted help and input from parents. I definitely saw some amazing ones that stood out from all the rest. I remember one in particular that was quite striking, and the kid was admitted ED or EA to an Ivy. No surprise as all.

    I also very often would have kids who said their own essays were excellent send them to me for review, and find that they were prosaic, poorly written, often riddled with grammatical errors. One time I had a kid send me a reasonably good essay because her mom and others were trying to push her to write on another topic. It was a "someone you admire" essay and instead of writing about some adult authority figure or mentor, she wrote about a special needs kid she had tutored. I thought it was an unremarkable but solid topic and she should stick with it-- I certainly thought her chances were better with that then writing about a teacher or public figure or her grandfather as the other adults in her life were urging.

    I tend to be a fairly harsh critic of my kid's own writing. My d's college essays were pretty good, much better than the essays she wrote for grad school. (But grad schools want a personal statement which can be harder to write). D's college essays weren't "amazing", but they were funny and charming and original. Son's was well-written, a little bit of a risk topic, but I'd slot it as "pretty good."

    I did see the LOR's that my kids got. My son's were passable and did a good job conveying his personality. My d. had one that really was "fabulous". The teacher sung her praises, gave the sense that she knew my d. well, and had the right combination of specific facts and the types of adjectives and descriptions colleges like to see. Years later, my son got an equally fabulous letter from a work supervisor which I am sure was instrumental in his winning a scholarship and a separate fellowship he was applying for. It's hard to beat a combination of effusive praise and enough citation to specific facts to give the letter a sense of credibility. (Plus in my d's case, it was from a high school English teachers, so the teacher got the grammar and spelling right.) The other LOR's my d. got were duds. (Didn't hurt, but nothing memorable).

    I don't think essays or LOR's can overcome weak stats, but they certainly can make an application in a competitive field stand out. And I really do think they are often the missing piece when we see a kid with low end stats and surprisingly strong admission results; or the kid who seems like a superstar on CC who ends up with a stack of rejection letters.
  • MarsianMarsian Posts: 6
    edited May 2013
    We rarely have students apply to HYPSM from our school. The most exceptional students (ones who would be competitive applicants at HYPSM) are usually focused on UNC and NC State (strong academics, strong fan base, great financial bargains, and relatively close), and once in a while on Duke (strong academics and relatively close, but not much of a local fan base and much too expensive for most people).

    I have known of five students at our high school who applied to one of the HYPSM schools in the last ten years; three were accepted. The two who were NOT accepted seemed to be far more qualified than the three who were accepted.

    In any case, all three of the accepted students were good, kind people, so people were happy for them. One was a recruited athlete. He probably would not have been accepted to UNC/NCSU/Duke as a non-athlete, he was not at the ACC playing level, but he was good enough in his sport for the Ivy League. Another was not even in the top 10% of students at our school and was not accepted at either UNC or Duke. Very few students even knew who she was; she didn't excel at anything at school. Legacy? Donor parents? The third one, after doing very well academically at her school, came home to go to CC, then to state university.

    You just never know ...
  • QuantMechQuantMech Posts: 79
    edited May 2013
    I am curious what fraction of CC posters on this thread were able to see the letters of recommendation written for their sons or daughters. We were not. Is this a regional thing? Or a private school vs. public school thing? Or just random? Or rather, unpredictable?
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 252
    edited May 2013
    One of the top private schools in the area that does provide a lot of help and time in student college essays, is pretty well known to me. I know the teachers, counselors administrators well. This school is one that gets a lot of their kids in the most selective colleges, mainly because the students are preselected, the school prepares them well with a rigorous curriculum, and the parents of these students are often those in special categories. I've been told that it is very rare, very, very rare, that the essay is going to make any difference. These folks have worked in admissons offices of selective schools and have close friends and former colleagues still in the business. I think they know what they are talking about.

    I'm not saying there are no exceptions, but from what I have seen, and I live in an area where there are a lot of kids going to selective schools, those exceptions are few. It was eyeopening to see the results that are kept, on where kids from get accepted, and with extra info on top of what Naviance provides, how many kids are hooked, and one may not know it. My son's former girl friend was accepted at Harvard. Total surprise to me and many at the school as she was not one of the creme d la creme. Her non custodial father, who was out of the picture in her life and none of us, including myself ever met was a Harvarrd grad, and his family development there and at other school. Plus she is considered Hispanic, something that I never knew from conversation, name (yes, very shallow, I know) and appearance (even more shallow). Until I saw the page points for her a year later, I thought she was one of those wild exceptions. Nope. She was development, legacy, URM, who was well prepared for a rigorous college education. Colleges love that , That her GPA and test scores dipped below anyone else accepted that year or for several prior years was apparent too.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 252
    edited May 2013
    Quantmech, we were not able to see rec letters for our kids for college. But when my kids applied to a highly selective indiependent school, yes, the teachers at the kids' schools where they were attending while applying just handed the recs to me. They didn't feel like mailing them. These days, many such recs can be directly emailed to a school and the Common App does have an easy way for recommenders to just directly submit the the recs, so this sort of thing does not happen as much, is my guess.

    My neighbor moved the summer between her one D's junior and senior year, and our public school provided her with 15 sealed recommendations from counselors and teachers. At that school, this is done in the second term of junior year all in place for fall of senior year processing. My neighbor simply opened one of the envelopes. So she saw what they wrote.

    Some who are supposed to be writing these things as part of their jobs will ask the student to write their own rec and they will edit and sign them. Yep. Seen it happen, read about it on this board. Not so much for colleges as many schools do have a procedure that they have in place, especially those school with a lot of kids applying to selective schools and programs. But, yes, it happens a lot.

    Some schools make you and/or the recommender sign off on NOT reading the copy and that you will not be given access to them and not signing tells the school that they were available for perusal.
  • intparentintparent Posts: 70
    edited May 2013
    BigDaddy88, you are way ahead of the game already just for asking this question. Being aware of the intense competition and starting to think about a strategy for selecting schools to apply to is a step that some people never even get to. You are aware that the competition is stiff, and as many people have pointed out on this thread, the whole package matters.

    My advice is to not worry too much more about the statistics, but keep your eye on the details of her applicaton as she goes through the process. I know some posters out here don't do that and their kids still end up with great results. But my advice is to work with your D to consider which ECs to put on the common app and how to best highlight her accomplishments in them, have someone (you or someone else) work with her to polish her essays (her voice and her writing, but even the best writers have an editor who makes suggestions and points out proofreading errors), strategize on who to ask for recommendations, etc. Also make sure someone (your D or you if necessary) is really tracking all the dates for things and making sure stuff is done and in on time. My kid got in everyplace she applied, including some top schools, but I personally do not think there was much luck involved. There is a lot of elbow grease in putting together applications that make it into the admitted pile. Most of it is your kid's hard work over the years, but you don't want silly mistakes in the application process to negate all that effort.
  • PizzagirlPizzagirl Posts: 153
    edited May 2013
    "am curious what fraction of CC posters on this thread were able to see the letters of recommendation written for their sons or daughters. We were not. Is this a regional thing? Or a private school vs. public school thing? Or just random? Or rather, unpredictable?"

    I did see one for my S (the teacher emailed it to me) and frankly it was the dull, prosaic "he is a very hard worker and does well in class and I'm sure he'd be a fine addition to your fine school" letter I expected. I asked her (nicely) to stop with the "hard worker" (implies a plodder)and to provide very specific and concrete examples of other traits she had touched on.
  • Bigdaddy88Bigdaddy88 Posts: 34 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    We actually sat down with our college counselor to ask about LOR's. My D told her which teachers she was thinking about asking and the counselor told her which of those teachers wrote great letters.

    I have no expectations of seeing the LOR's. I truly thought that the teachers sent them directly to the schools.

    One thing I've noticed in my time on CC is that there is very little consensus on the admissions process. Some posters swear that LOR's or essays are critically important. So important that you need to spend the whole summer before senior year brainstorming, writing and re-writing them. Then others say they are virtually meaningless! Some say that you will never get into a good school with "those" EC's and others say that EC's can be embellished to the point that adcoms don't even look at them anymore. Some say the standardized test scores are critical while others say that just about anyone can be tutored into great scores making the tests much less important. GPA...important? Maybe...how do colleges know how hard the grading is at your school? Course rigor...maybe...how do the students in your school do on the AP exams??

    Sorry for the rant...
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