What are my chances? This is one of the most common questions I get. The students asking this question are almost always discussing one of the very selective colleges in this country. Websites like College Confidential answer that question all of the time so it should be easy for me to answer it also, right?
Yes, it is easy to answer the question of what a student’s chances are at a particular college given their GPA and test scores. And in most cases, the person answering the question has no idea what they are talking about.
Here is the problem. Most selective colleges make admissions decisions based on a variety of factors. Let’s take two examples; Big Public U and Competitive Private College.
Big Public U looks primarily at grades and test scores. But, they are also looking at issues like what classes did you take to get that GPA. AP Calculus and Honors Biology=Good. Wood shop and band=Bad. (Note-there is nothing wrong with taking wood shop and band as long as those are not the primary classes you are relying on for a good GPA)
Competitive Private College looks at the grades and classes taken for those grades also. But they may also consider your standardized test scores, your writing ability from the essays, your extracurricular activities, your leadership potential, where you live, what interest you have shown in the college, what hooks you have such as athletic ability or legacy status and on and on.
Yes, there are a few colleges that make admissions decision based solely on your GPA and test scores. But those are almost always the least selective colleges. The vast majority of selective colleges have a much more sophisticated approach to deciding who to admit. I think that is a good thing.
If a student is looking at relatively non-competitive colleges for admissions, then it is easier to make a prediction of who might be admitted. When dealing with the very competitive colleges, however, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you are guaranteed admission based on your grades and test scores alone. They don’t know what they are talking about.