College committed students, in New Jersey and across the country, are finding that gaining admission to coveted colleges has grown increasingly competitive in recent years.
Even students with near-perfect SAT scores, weighted GPAs above 4.0, and many advanced placement courses find it extremely difficult to secure an “approved” email from the highest levels of schools.
Recent statistics from US News & World Report show that the acceptance rate at the vast majority of the most selective “Top 100” colleges was 25% or less. It included famous schools such as the Universities of New York, Boston, Northeastern, Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon, and Duke. Not surprisingly, Ivy League schools have single-digit acceptance rates, with the exception of Cornell University at 11%.
The lesson from these bleak statistics is that high school students need to include “safety schools” in their list of potential colleges. These are the colleges a student expects to be accepted, based on a comparison of their GPA and SAT scores with the scores of accepted students in previous years. High school students should use Naviance, or whatever software their school uses, to compare their academic statistics with those of former students from their high school who applied to any particular college. It will show how many students were accepted and rejected, and how their SAT scores and GPAs compare.
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Of course, a safety school for one student may be a distant school, an extended school, or a dream for another student. Also, acceptance rates fail to reveal the institutional priorities of any school. Some public universities accept in-state students at a much higher rate than out-of-state students, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some universities have completely different admission criteria for specific athletes, for first-generation college applications, or for long-term students.
Students should only apply to colleges, safety, or otherwise, where they are happy to attend. Sometimes, Safety School ends up being the preferred college, even when students are accepted into more competitive schools. Often times, students are offered a large scholarship by their safety schools, which are impressed by their academic record. Other times, they are invited to an honors program at their safety school, which would not be an option at a more competitive college.
The best strategy may be to apply to desired safety schools through early procedures or rolling admission, if offered. Then, students will likely have some admissions on hand, reducing anxiety while waiting for word from their highly competitive dream schools.
Susan Alemo is the founder and director of Collegebound Review who, for the past 25 years, has provided PSAT/SAT® preparation, essay editing, and advising for private college by Ivy League-educated coaches. Visit CollegeboundReview.com or call 908-369-5362