College Admissions Become a Game of Chance

As the school year comes to a close and seniors ready themselves for the life of college, the question of college acceptance rates grows in significance. Over the past decade, the expectations for candidates admissions have increased in parallel to the number of applicants applying, resulting in candidates with more qualifications and higher competition. This change is best observed in elite schools such as Harvard and Stanford; according to Business Insider, “for the class of 2001 the admission rate at Stanford was 15.5%, and the rate at Harvard was 12.3%. For the class of 2021, Stanford posted a 4.7% acceptance rate and Harvard a 5.2% acceptance rate.”Although there is no specific combination of factors that increase one’s appeal in the eyes of college, there are key components that each applicant could consider. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, for first-freshmen in the fall of 2014, the top admission decision factors has consistently been grades in college-preparatory courses, followed by strength of curriculum, grades in all courses, and admission test scores. A subsequent set of factors that are considered to be moderately important involve extracurricular activities, faculty recommendations, essays, and class rank. The final set of factors that are only relevant to a small percentage of colleges include subject test scores, SAT II scores, work experience, portfolios, etc. Nevertheless, a student’s grades in college-preparatory courses are by far the most significant factor in college admission decisions. According to CollegeBoard, highly selective colleges seek students who fulfill the basic academic requirements, have enrolled in several Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and demonstrate motivation to take challenging courses, even if they receive lower grades than in a regular course. From personal experience, strong personal statements and essays can also give students a competitive edge, as they offer insight into the student’s background and demonstrate their writing ability. Personal statements are an excellent way to describe one’s upbringing and significant events that have shaped one’s life, or offer an explanation for a mediocre grade in a certain course. Admission officers are looking for students who demonstrate a strong work ethic and have an interesting personality, and having original voice in a personal statement is a surefire way to convey these qualities. In terms of college selection, according to U.S. News, some key factors that influence an incoming freshman’s decision to attend a particular college include the institution’s academic reputation and the cost of college. Senior Chris Hyunh identified with the latter, saying “I chose San Jose State University because I heard it has a good animation program, along with the fact that I can save a significant amount of money. Although I got into better schools, I decided to choose SJSU for a better foundation on my future job.” According to a survey released by the University of California, Los Angeles, “the ‘cost of attending this college’ was in fourth place as a reason for attendance and reached an all-time high percentage of 43.3 percent.” Other factors influencing college selection include receiving financial assistance, a high job-rate, and campus visits. It is evident that a variety of factors influence both college acceptance and college selection, although some areweighed more heavily than others. “I want the college I eventually pick to be located in a good community, with people who are open and like-minded. I’m also looking for a college that suits my academic potential and is competitive but not to the point where I am unable to cope with the stress. Colleges definitely look at the basic things like grades and standardized scores, but I think and truly hope that they weigh personality considerably; you can demonstrate this in your community service activities, clubs, and extracurriculars.” said Junior Muskan Seth.