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College admissions is as competitive as it will ever be, and we continue to see admissions rates at elite institutions continue to drop every year. In fact, Stanford recently stopped reporting their acceptance rates so as to detract attention away from the incredibly stiff competition as the highest achieving students across the country vie for a spot at one of these elite institutions  (though we suspect they dropped to below 3% acceptance rate). Princeton and Harvard are hovering around 4-5%, while schools such as Yale and Columbia are roughly at 6% acceptance rates.

And even if you are one of those high octane students who have the most stellar academic and extracurricular profile, it doesn’t mean you’ll get in. As we’ve always said, the college applications is the most important aspect of this process, and we’ve seen strong students who get rejected from every top university they applied to, while weaker students were able to get in.

a group of college students going to their dorm rooms

What this means is that the bar is set significantly higher if you are serious about getting into schools like the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, UChicago, or Caltech. Yes, your course selection, GPA, SAT’s, and AP scores do matter, but we’d be lying to you if that’s all it took to get in. In fact, you need to go above and beyond if you want to get into these elite universities, and that typically means regional and national academic competitions, whether it’s competing in the USA Math Olympiad or in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competitions, to demonstrate your intellectual ability outside of merely just grades and test scores.

The same goes for extracurricular activities. Students are challenged to take on significant leadership roles, perform community service, play a musical instrument, get involved in athletics, attend a prestigious summer program, and most importantly develop a “hook” in their application that would make them unique enough to stand out among the thousands of other competitive students eager to take a spot at these elite institutions.

a female student studying in a library
high school students looking at the camera

Needless to say, college admissions is fiercely competitive. In fact, we’ve always said that college admissions is broken because while GPA and SAT scores are standard metrics that every high school requires, students need to go above and beyond to take advantage of the outside opportunities (regional/national academic competitions, leadership and community service opportunities, summer programs) in and out of their high school to maximize their odds of getting in. In fact, GPA and test scores, while important, only scratch the tip of the iceberg.

Why is that?

Because admissions is a holistic process – a combination of both art and science. We’ve always said a strong application could get a weak student in, and a weak application could keep a strong student out. And that often means writing stellar application essays and personal statements to exemplify the personal qualities that admissions want to see, and hopefully, the student they hope to admit.

In an ideal world, you want all the stars to align – a high achieving student with a stellar academic and extracurricular profile, and a compelling application to seal the deal. And that’s how the AdmissionSight program has been guiding students for the past decade, and we’ve the results to show for it.

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