I think we overuse the word deserve. I know I do. We seem to always think that we deserve something just because. But do we really?
My Daughter will tell you that she has a two page resume, and she is not apologetic about it. Some of the things on her resume are:
- Three year GPA 97+, including 1st semester Senior year 99+
- 99th percentile SAT score
- 5 Leadership positions in clubs she has participated in since Fresh or Soph year
- 40+ hours service a year, mainly as tutor in Title 1 middle school
- Paid job as tutor
- 20+ writing awards/published (and writing is her hobby)
- 10+ awards for various activities
- Summers spent building houses in Costa Rica, program at Stanford Law School and Internship with Manhattan Borough President office
So someone recently said to her- “Well- you deserve a spot at an elite University.” To which my Daughter replied:
“I have a great resume. I work hard. But there are about 35,000 high schools in America. Assume that there is one kid just like me at every school in America.”
“We know that there is a Valedictorian (#1 in class rank) at every school”
We’re up to 70,000 students.
“And every school has a salutatorian (#2 in class rank)”
Total- 105,000 students
And then there’s home schooled children. And international students.
And my kid is quick to point out: “The kids with the two page resumes. There’s not just one at every high school” At her high school alone there are at least five. And she knows schools where there are twenty or more…
A school like Harvard only accepts about 1,900 students. Assume there are 105,000 qualified students (in reality Harvard received over 43,000 applications)….
Does my daughter deserve a spot?
Does anyone deserve a spot?
My Daughter will clearly tell you. “No one deserves a spot at an elite university. What they have done is earned the right to have an admission counselor look really carefully at their application. They have a proven track record that shows that they are clearly qualified to take on the tasks and challenges that a school has to offer. But no one deserves a spot.
So how does a school choose its students? I have no idea. I spent a year helping my daughter navigate the system, and I know less now than when I started. Some schools truly are holistic in their approach. Some schools are numbers driven. Some schools focus on your special talent. Elite universities kind of do it all.
Here’s the one thing we did realize early on, and I have seen many people not grasp these simple facts (which only leads to heartache for your kid). All schools publish their range of academic criteria. They will list the range where test scores fall, and they will list the GPA range. You can separate the schools as follows:
- Reach: your test scores and GPA are at the middle or below
- Target: you test scores and GPA are at the mid range or top of the range
- Likely: you exceed the high range of GPA and scores
Apply appropriately. My Daughter had a whole bunch of reach schools, but she also had four likely schools which she was prepared to go to if she didn’t make a reach school. Because she knows how many qualified students there are right now. Even though she has a stellar resume she knows exactly how cruel the system can be.
And the system was cruel this year. Record high application numbers lead to record low acceptance rates. The Salutatorian at her High School is going to her likely school because she did not get into anything else. Some people are saying that that’s not fair- she worked so hard. But guess what? LOTS of kids worked really hard. But the reality is: no one deserves a spot at an elite college- there are just too many qualified applicants for what amounts to very few spots.