Eyeing Ivy League? Straight As no guarantee

Intense competition means many good students won’t get in


THE already crazed competition for admission to America’s most prestigious universities and colleges became even more intense this year.

Harvard, for example, offered admission to only 7.1 per cent of high school seniors who applied, compared to 9 per cent last year.

Put another way, it rejected 93 out of every 100 applicants, many of them with extraordianry achievements like a perfect score on one of the SAT exams.

Yale accepted 8.3 per cent of its 22,813 applicants, down 0.7 per cent from last year. Both rates were record lows.

Columbia admitted 8.7 per cent of its applicants and Brown University and Darmouth College 13 per cent — all the figures being at least one percentage point less than last year. Bowdoin College and Georgetown University allowed 18 per cent — also record lows.

In Harvard’s case, applications began flooding in late last year after the country’s richest university pledged to cut its tuition fees to make it more affordable for middle-class families.

“We love the people we admitted, but we also love a very large number of the people whom we were not able to admit,” said Mr William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard.

Some colleges said they placed more students on their waiting lists than in recent years, in part because of uncertainty over how many admitted students would decide to enrol.

Harvard and Princeton stopped accepting students through early admissions this academic year, meaning that more than 1,500 students who would have been admitted in December were likely to have applied to many elite schools in the regualr round.

Many factors contributed to the tightening of the competition at the most selective colleges, admissions deans and high school counsellors said, among them demographics.

The number of high school graduates in the nation has grown each year over the past 15 years, though demographers project that the figure will peak this year or next.

Other factors were the ease of online applications, expanded financial aid packages, aggressive recruiting of a broader range of young people and ambitious students applying to more colleges.

The eight Ivy League colleges sent out acceptance and rejection letters on Monday.

“For the schools that are perceived to have the most competitive admissions processes, there has been this persistent rise in applications, ” said Mr Jeffrey Brenzel, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale.

Tne years ago, slightly fewer than 12,000 students applied toYale, compared with 22,813 who applied this year, he said.

Yale’s admittance rate — the proportion of applicants offered admission – was nearly 18 per cent in 1998, more than double the rate this year.

At Harvard, as at Yale, the applicant pool included an extraordinary number of academically gifted students.

More than 2,500 of Harvard’s 27,462 applicants scored a perfect 800 on the SAT critical reading  test, and 3,300 scored 800 on the SAT maths exam. More than 3,300 were ranked first in their high school class.

Admissions deans and high school guidance counsellors said they spent hours at this time of year reminding students put on waiting lists or rejected entirely that there were other excellent colleges – and that rejection was often about the overwhelming numbers rather than their merits as indivuduals.

Said Mr William Shain, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin. “Where we went to college does not set us up for success or keep us away from it.”



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