Luck is a Skill

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With college admission rates dropping every year, a popular opinion among students and parents is that applying to colleges is a game of chance. So, what’s the most logical choice? Apply to as many colleges as possible because probability says that the more chances I have the greater the probability I’ll get into a great school, right? No, unfortunately not.

When students use this logic, they create a list of 25-30 top colleges to apply to, feel extreme stress throughout the entire process, and sacrifice the quality of their applications. In the beginning of my college process, I happened to share this belief that the applying to college is a game of chance, but I realized it could not be farther from the truth.

Harvard gets more than 40,000 applicants per year and admits only 2,000 applicants, and the admission rate is 5%. Harvard’s goal is to find the applicants with the highest potential for success. Why? Because Harvard is a business, and how does the college sell itself? Through disruptors like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates who changed the world.

For the sake of clarity, let’s assume there are three tiers of applicants. So, of the 2,000 acceptances, let’s say 900 of these acceptances go to the world-class applicants or people that have the highest potential for success. That leaves 1,100 acceptances remaining. This is still a lot of students, but there are a lot more applicants who are not world-class. As a result, the admissions rate goes way down, then the strong applicants and unqualified applicants slip through the admission cracks and become accepted. If you’re world class, your admission rate is much higher than 5%.

But if you’re in the second tier, then top college admissions will appear to be a game of a chance. You may be thinking right now, so it is a game of chance. Well, not exactly and I will tell you why in a moment.

Applicant Tier # of Applicants # of Acceptances Admission Rate
World Class 1,000 900 90%
Strong 33,000 1050 3.2%
Not Qualified 5,000 50 1%

If you are student currently applying to top colleges, this is why you may commonly hear, “if an admissions application reader is having a bad day, he or she may reject you.”  Only 1,000 out of 39,000 applicants are world class, which is 2% of the application pool. They are not expecting your application to be world class; therefore, if you are only a strong applicant, then you will judged on a very strict criteria, which is subject to bias.

Now, of course you need great test scores and grades to have a shot of getting admitted to a top college. Hypothetically, let’s say you have the scores and grades. If you can manage to sell yourself to 5-12 colleges as a world class applicant, that gives you 5-12 chances with a 90% admission rate. I would argue that that scenario is much more logical than 25-30 chances with a 3.2% admission rate.

If you disagree with any of my points above, please let me know. I’d love to have a discussion. You can leave a comment below and I will do my best to reply in a timely manner.

Featured Image: https://poetsandquantsforundergrads.com/2018/04/11/college-admissions-and-community-service/

About the author

Connor Browder is a 16 year old from Greenwich, Connecticut. He is a member of the St. Mark’s Class of 2019. He plans on pursuing a career in bio-engineering, software development, and entrepreneurship. He intends on getting a major in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in computer science. Some other interests include squash, golf, computer programming, and cross country.

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