We're training a new counselor in our Irvine, CA office. Today we discussed highly selective college admissions–what it really takes to get into the most selective colleges.
The problem with college admissions today is that all the highest achievers–from around the world–apply to the same 40 colleges. So schools like Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Duke, Georgetown, Yale, Northwestern and the rest of the 40 most famous colleges have far, far more qualified applicants than they can ever possibly admit. Some of them only admit 1 out of every 10 kids. So most of the applicants, by comparison, don't stand out. They feel inadequate because they haven't published a book or written a concerto or invented a way to travel back in time.
Rachael Toor wrote Admissions Confidential about her time working as an undergraduate admissions officer at Duke. Here's an excerpt from page 2:
"Most of the students I meet on my travels are BWRKs. That's admissionese for 'bright well-rounded kids.' You know, the ones who do everything right. They take honors classes, study hard enough to be in the top 10% of their class, get solid 1350's on their SAT's (blogger's note: That's like 2030 on the new scale), play sports, participate in student government, do community service (sometimes even when it's not required). They're earnest, they're hardworking, they're determined. They do everything right, and most of them don't have a chance of getting in. We deny them. In droves. Another BWRK. Zip. How boring."
That's a bleak outlook. Unfortunately, the fact that these schools are so ridiculously hard to get into only feeds peoples' belief that famous schools offer better educations.
It doesn't have to be that way.
If you're a BWRK, you are almost certainly not boring. You're smart, you work hard, you commit yourself to activities, and you probably don't spend nearly enough time goofing off and just having fun. In fact, you'd probably be even more interesting if you followed your real interests instead of just trying to please famous colleges. But still, hundreds and hundreds of colleges are going to trip over themselves to accept you. You just have to pick the right schools.
High school students (and their parents) have a choice. You don't have to buy into the college admissions insanity. You can reject the idea of desperately trying to stand out to Yale, and you can embrace the idea of working hard, being yourself, and finding the droves of colleges who absolutely love BWRKs.