I was recently interviewed by US News and World Report editor Courtney Rubin on my process for the early action/decision entitled “The Early Edge.” The early action is an excellent way to take advantage of the higher acceptance rates at these competitive universities. Certainly, one might argue that the early action pool is also much more talented and competitive than the regular decision pool. But when you have a chance to signal to the university that they are your indeed first choice, I always advise my students to take that opportunity and put your best foot forward.
In the article, I discussed that the early action round may also be an opportunity for an applicant to test the waters of their application. This usually only applies if you are a very strong candidate, and for some reason just happened to get rejected by one of the easier early action universities that we expected to get into (ie, Georgia Tech, University of Michigan). Perhaps we wrote something risky in the personal statements that we expected to have a huge payoff, but didn’t happened to work, for example. As a result, we may take a safer approach and recalibrate for other universities in the regular round.
This is a more nuanced and strategic approach that I see very few college admissions consultants take. From my view, the personal statement is a matter of risk and reward, and sometimes we have to make these decisions whether to write something more controversial and risky to stand out, or take a safer, conservative route to land that acceptance letter. I won’t mention what my students write about here, but these are some elements that my students and I work together to consider.
The early action process is statistically a great opportunity to take advantage of. Let’s take a quick look at the numbers. Stanford boasts an acceptance rate of ~4%, but their early action acceptance rate is over 10%. Princeton and Harvard boast an acceptance rate of 5%, but their early action acceptance rate is 15%, nearly triple the overall acceptance rate. Cornell’s overall acceptance rate is around ~12%, but their early decision acceptance rate is nearly 25%! So yes, I absolutely recommend my students to take advantage of that early action/decision to leverage the high acceptance rates to increase their odds of getting in.
When the top universities in the world have such low acceptance rates hovering in the single digits, you have to play the probabilities to your advantage. Let me make a factual statement: If you don’t apply, you have a zero chance at getting in. Yes, you heard me. And I think we can all agree on that statement, objectively speaking. In fact, last year I worked with a student who was rejected from Rice, waitlisted from Dartmouth, but accepted to Yale. Most people would argue that Yale is a better university than Rice or Dartmouth, but when push comes to shove, we are playing with probabilities at the end of the day.
You can mitigate the low acceptance rates by applying everywhere (yes, you heard that right – all 8 Ivy Leagues/Stanford/UChicago/MIT/Caltech – type schools), as well as putting your best foot forward by crafting together a powerful application for each university.
Taking advantage of the high early acceptance rates at these schools definitely helps. But I’d also like to warn that getting deferred or rejected in the early round does not mean the end of the world. I’ve had students who were deferred early to Stanford, but ended up getting into Harvard and Princeton, for example. I’ve also had students who were accepted early to Stanford but rejected from Duke, Columbia, among others. What does this mean?
It simply means that the college admissions process isn’t perfect. There are real human beings (admissions officers, if you will) who are analyzing these applications behind closed doors. There isn’t a single algorithm or formula that determines your fate, but there are factors that you can take advantage of to increase your probabilities of success. As one of the top college admissions consultants in the country, I’ve seen all shades of the spectrum when it comes to navigating this complex college admissions process.
All my students submit highly compelling applications that put their best foot forward to maximize their odds of success. In fact, I’ve had students tell me that they don’t care what happens in the end because they know there’s nothing else they could have done to present the best possible application to the admissions officers. They’re not only confident in my process, but they know themselves that we’ve finagled every crevice to put them front and center as compelling applicants. After we’ve spent tremendous time and energy poring into the personal statements and polishing that final application before submission, we leave it in the hands of the admissions gods to determine their fate.
But I can’t emphasize how important it is to polish that application to make sure it’s picture perfect. Because if you don’t, even if you play the odds, you’re not playing with a very strong hand that would give you an opportunity to get admitted. And that’s what exactly IvyCollegeAdmit program accomplishes – perfecting an application that would maximize your odds of success.
As rising high school seniors prepare for another competitive admissions round this coming application cycle, a big factor to watch for this year’s application cycle is the discontinuation of the Siemens Westinghouse Competition. For those who are new to this, the Siemens Westinghouse competition is a highly prestigious research competition offered for high school students across the country that selects students based on their cutting edge research performed typically through university affiliation or through highly competitive summer programs.
In the past, the 18 page, double spaced research paper for the Siemens Competition is submitted in September, and students find out their semifinalist standing (usually top 500 or so in the country) in October, right before the early application deadlines. Many of my students have gone on to win semifinalist and regional finalist in this competition, which is extremely helpful and an award that they include before the early application deadline due November 1st.
Now that this competition has been discontinued, it generally means a few things:
The sophomores who placed semifinalist or higher in the previous year’s Siemens Competition have a significant leg up on this year’s (Class of 2023) application cycle students. Very few sophomores place in the Siemens Competition, which is primarily given to juniors.
The Intel Science Talent Science and Engineering Fair carries an even greater weight than before. In the past, those with ISEF awards were considered strong, but now that the Siemens Competition has been discontinued there are fewer students to compete with (minus the overlap – both Siemens and ISEF semifinalists).
Students who attend a competitive summer science program this year don’t reap the same awards they would have in the past. The juniors who attend competitive science summer programs this year still have an opportunity to compete in the Regeneron STS competition, but that one carries less weight because they won’t find out until January/February, after they have already submitted their application. Last year I had two students who placed Top 300 and Top 40 respectively in the Regeneron STS competition, including one who won a $25,000 scholarship.
The Siemens Competition requires an 18 page, double spaced research paper typically under supervision of a mentor through a university lab. The Regeneron STS competition also requires a research paper, but also a personal statement in addition to the research report. Again, the application essays and personal statements for summer programs, national research competitions, and of course, the college applications continue to play a significant role in the process.
Attending a science summer program is helpful for this year’s rising juniors as it demonstrates one’s intellectual curiosity through research, but it carries less weight due to the inability to compete in the Siemens Westinghouse competition. While the exact percentage of Siemens Competition semifinalists (or higher) who attend Ivy Leagues or top 10 universities is difficult to find, as a former Siemens Competition semifinalist myself and with peers who did place in the competition, it’s one of those things that does increase one’s chances to the top universities.
These research competitions are the type of competitions that Ivy League admissions officers have looked for in applicants for years – Intel Science Talent Search, Intel Science and Engineering Fair, Siemens Westinghouse, and Regeneron STS have given students a leg up when it comes to getting in. But that does not mean everyone gets in simply because of these competitions – especially those who write subpar personal statements and don’t know how to present their narrative through the applications.
The 2018 results are finally in for the Class of 2022!
75% of IvyCollegeAdmit students were accepted into Ivy League universities.
This year, I worked with a total of 16 students for the 2018 application cycle for the Class of 2022. Needless to say, given the competitive admissions climate and acceptance rates hovering at anywhere from 4-7% for the Ivy League or top 10 universities, IvyCollegeAdmit students performed incredibly well. My students have been accepted to and will be attending:
Berkeley MET / Brown (1)
This marks a total of 12 out of 16 students, or a 75% acceptance rate to the Ivy League and/or Top 10 university – an incredibly strong track record when the average acceptance rate at these schools hovers anywhere from 4-7%. This was by far the most competitive application cycle in history. Here’s some sample acceptance letters from this admissions cycle:
Outside of the Ivy League/Stanford/UChicago/MIT/Caltech schools, my other students still performed phenomenally well, including acceptances to Berkeley, Georgia Tech Biomedical Engineering program (ranked #1 in the country), University of Michigan, UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, Northeastern, and Boston College, just to name a few. This year also marks the second year of the relatively new inaugural Berkeley MET program, which accepts 40 students in the entire country for a less than 3% acceptance rate. One of my students was able to secure a spot in this highly competitive program.
My students hailed from several Bay Area high schools as well as the East Coast, including Harker School, Lynbrook High, Gunn HS, Aragon High, Saratoga HS, Juniper Serra HS, Milton Academy, University High, Lexington HS, Highland School of Technology, Auburn HS, among others. Roughly 60% of my clients are from the Bay Area, and another 40% are from all around the country, including East Coast schools.
2018 Acceptance Rate
University of Chicago
Ivy League Average
The average acceptance rate at the Ivy League or top 10 university was roughly 6.7%! Despite this the lowest acceptance rate in history, IvyCollegeAdmit students had a 75% acceptance rate to at least one of the Ivy League or top 10 universities, which is truly an incredible feat and more than 10x the regular acceptance rate at the creme of the crop colleges.
We were able perform remarkably well because of the powerful applications that we crafted together to the universities. While we may have made it “look easy” in the most competitive application cycle in history, we poured a tremendous amount of time and energy into the personal statements, supplemental material, application review, and interview preparation to get these results.
I am very proud of my students, their achievements, and the spellbinding applications that resulted in an impressive outcome for the Class of 2022 in perhaps the most competitive admissions process to date. The Ivy College Admit program has continued its excellence of success and extremely high track record of placing students into the most competitive colleges in the country.
Here’s a sample of some additional acceptance letters from this admissions cycle for the Class of 2022:
Note: Past performance is not indicative of future results given the highly competitive nature of college admissions.
Even with admissions rates dropping to all time lows…
My students have done remarkably well in the college admissions process. And I mean incredibly well, gaining spots in the top 6 universities in the country, including multiple acceptances to Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, etc. Every year, as thousands of students vie for a spot at one of the country’s most elite institutions, a part of me shivers with excitement. But it’s not the type of excitement that you’d feel while going on a roller coaster ride – it’s a calm, peaceful excitement that vibrates within me as I help my students navigate the murky waters of college admissions to get them that coveted acceptance letter.
As high school students across the country sweat about final exams and college applications, it’s a peaceful journey for me. But for my students, I sense their nervousness and trepidation as they embark upon the college admissions process. Thoughts loom: “What if I don’t get in? What if all the hard work I put in throughout all my high years have gone to waste?”
Granted, it is a pivotal moment in one’s life. And that’s why given my expertise with the college admissions process, I love my job so much. It’s a great passion for me to see my students get accepted to the college of their choice. It’s a thrill every year for me as I witness my students, one by one, get accepted to the university they’ve always dreamed of attending. Princeton. Stanford. MIT. Harvard. UChicago.
But what I remind all of my students is that we didn’t get to this position without hard work, and most importantly, spending significant time on the application. Most students tend to neglect the importance of putting together a well thought out application, which is my focus from day one as soon as the student signs up with me. By crafting together a compelling college application that blow the admissions officers away, we are able to outcompete against the country’s best and brightest. Congratulations to all the early acceptances!
Getting into an Ivy League is tough – especially for Asian Americans.
As the baby boomers and population have steadily increased, enrollment rates for Asian Americans at the nation’s most competitive universities have stayed at the same rate – slightly under 20%. It’s no secret that college admissions is most competitive for Asian Americans and Jews, who typically have higher SAT scores and GPA’s than other ethnicities, but have much lower enrollment rates. A complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleges that for Asian-Americans students to gain admission, they have to have SAT scores 140 points higher than white students, 270 points higher than Hispanic students, and 45 points higher than African American students.
Admissions at competitive universities such as the Ivy League base their admissions decisions around holistic factors: extracurricular activities, leadership, community service, and personal qualities to build a diverse student body. But I’ve seen Asian American students with stellar extracurricular activities and test scores get turned down by admissions officers time and time again. The only universities where this doesn’t happen is at the University of California, Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology, where a high number of Asians are accepted based on their qualifications.
For other competitive universities like Princeton, Harvard, or Stanford, this may not be the case. A quick look at a popular college admissions website collegeconfidential.com where students post their stats and scores shows strong, well-rounded students getting turned down every year. In reality, Asian American students are really competing against themselves within the 20% quota that Ivy Leagues place on Asians – which makes college admissions extremely competitive.
But despite this, I tell my students not to worry. Nearly all the clients that I have worked with are of Asian descent, yet I continue to place my students into the top universities every year despite seemingly insurmountable odds. The reason for this high success rate is because of my expertise in demonstrating their soft personality qualities that Ivy League admissions officers are looking for in every single one of my student’s applications. These come in the form of well-drafted and thought out personal statements and extracurricular involvement to show the depth and breadth of their leadership and commitment to their community.
Of course, getting national awards such as the annual Siemens Competition or Math and Science olympiads could definitely help and increase chances of admission – and which I encourage all of my students to pursue. But this isn’t what ultimately gets them in – getting these awards is merely the cherry on top that helps, but what’s even more important is putting together a convincing and well thought out college application to convince the admissions officers that you exhibit the leadership skills to contribute to the campus community and beyond.
It is only getting more and more competitive at the nation’s top universities, especially for Asian Americans if the enrollment rates with a cap of 20% continue to stay the same. But in life, and especially in college admissions, you’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt – and understanding how to succeed in this challenging environment is a crucial part of the process that I help walk all my students through.