Dear Estelle. Each year you question the number of applications high school students submit to ensure a spot in a prestigious college and each year the percentage of accepted students becomes smaller and smaller. Our son qualifies as a superior applicant with the ability to excel anywhere. He has excellent grades and test scores, has excelled in every AP classes offered at Cherry Creek High School, is in the top 5% of his class, a scientist, and a youth community leader. He has worked hard and has always planned to attend an Ivy League school like his dad. Unfortunately he believes the payoff will be a rejection letter from his #1 choice, Princeton. Is this fair? Parent, Centennial, CO
No, this is not fair but those of us who counsel students for college have discovered that the college admissions process is difficult to understand and the best strategy involves options. These options should include applying to schools of differing selectivity so students aren’t left without choices. Even outstanding students like your son shouldn’t apply just to Ivy League schools.
Let me give you a few stats about the Princeton numbers this year. In their recent newsletter dated February 8, 2007, the following story appeared, “Princeton sets third consecutive applications record” Apparently Princeton set another record year for applications, receiving 18, 891 applications for the class of 2011, an 8% increase over last year and 38% over the last four years. In an effort to become less elitist, this is the last year students will be able to apply early decision to Princeton, a process that has benefited early decision applicants since a greater percentage of these students are accepted (597 out of 2,276 high school seniors). These students will comprise 48% of the freshman class. Regular decision and deferred candidates will comprise the rest of the class. According to the Dean of Admissions, the availability of the online common application has been a significant factor in the increase in numbers.
Having a sense of the numbers, students with even the best records should understand that competition is stiff and next year, without the availability of early decision plus the increase in students applying online, the situation may be even more difficult.
Your son must understand if he is not accepted or has been deferred from the early decision pool that he is not less of an honors student or an unworthy person. His efforts have been exemplary but the competition has become increasingly stiff and regular decision applicants comprise only about 6% of those accepted.