What are the oddsI regularly get comments from people giving me information about their academic background and asking me what their chances are at a particular college.

I used to answer these comments but I am no longer doing so. Why? Because the answer is always the same. I don’t know.

Oh, I may have a pretty good idea but there are so many factors that go into a colleges decision on who to admit that no one, outside the Dean of Admissions of the college in question can really answer the question.

Let’s say you have lower grades and test scores than that college normally admits. Do you have a good chance of admissions? No.  But if you are a recruited athlete at the college they may be willing to ignore your less than stellar test scores.

Or maybe you bring some type of diversity to the campus that the school is looking for.  That might get you a second look. So might the fact that your parent is a major movie star.

What makes my job interesting, and frustrating,  all at the same time is this interplay of many different factors.  And the factors differ from college to college and from year to year.

One of my strongest students several years ago had a truly stunning academic and personal background.  He was admitted to MIT, Caltech, Harvard, Princeton, and on and on. And rejected from the University of Chicago.  And lest you think it was because he didn’t have that quirkiness that U of C is known for, this kid wrote probably the best Chicago essay I have ever read.

Why was he rejected? I have my theories but we will never know for sure. What I do know, is that I won’t chance students for admissions to particular colleges.  The most I do for the students I am working with is to tell them whether they are competitive or not competitive for a particular college.

It is true that I can tell some students, after getting to know them well, that they have no realistic chance at a particular highly competitive college.   Some students, no matter what their personal background, are just not going to be academically successful at a highly competitive college.  But for most students, no one can say for sure.

College admissions, despite what you may want, is not a precise science. And anyone who is willing to tell you your chances of admissions to a particular college is lying to you.  Plain and simple.

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