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By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

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About this blog: We are writing this blog to give practical advice to students and parents, to reflect on issues affecting college admissions, and to provide a platform for a robust community discussion on post-secondary choices. We occasionally f...  (More)

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March Madness for Seniors

Uploaded: Feb 28, 2021
This blog post was written by John Raftrey

Every March is always a tense month for seniors as they await their admission decisions.
This will be the most gut-wrenching March for seniors ever. Many seniors will find themselves collateral damage from the Covid-19 pandemic.

I say this not to be pessimistic, but to prepare students for what I think is about to happen.

Early indications are that elite colleges are being flooded with applications now that the test requirement is optional. Here are the increases in Early Decision applications at elite schools:
MIT up 60%
Harvard up 57%
Yale and Penn up 50%
UC Berkeley up 28%

Elite colleges (except for Chicago) that are going test optional have not done it before and have no experience evaluating applications without test scores. That means many mistakes will happen. Decisions will be unfathomably random. Many students who worked hard for four years, took tough classes and earned top grades will not be rewarded for their efforts.

Colleges have no idea what their admit yield numbers will be. That is percentage of students who say yes after being admitted. One respected college counselor predicts that schools will misjudge yields and not accept enough students. This means more students than ever could be admitted off wait lists. If you end up on the wait list of one of your favorite schools, it doesn't mean you didn't measure up, it means, well it's hard to tell what it means. Stay on the wait list.

Some advice.
Admitted Unexpectedly
Let's say you applied to Columbia as a super reach and got in. Now you have to think to yourself, can you compete at Columbia? They will still let in a large number of brilliant students who are trained to get A's in tough curricula. If you graduate from Columbia with a transcript full of "gentleman C's" you will not look good to grad school, med school, law school. I had one student who was accepted at Harvard, went to accepted students' day and realized she was way in over her head. Her family, teachers and friends couldn't believe she turned it down to attend a highly respected UC and grad school. This year you might have to be that girl.

Not Admitted Unexpectedly
This is going to happen to a large number of top students at top high schools in the Bay Area. They thought they would get in to at least one of their top schools and they will be shocked, their parents and friends will be shocked. It will happen at the Ivy's the little Ivy's, the public Ivy's and top small liberal arts schools. It will most certainly happen at the UC's.
If you get on a wait list, stay on the wait list. This year you never know what might happen.

1.) You can vow that you will work your butt off at the school where you are going so you can transfer.
2.) You can vow to dominate at the school where you are going. You will hustle to get the best research opportunities, the most A's, and the best recommendations ever for grad school. Harvard Law School accepts students from 164 undergraduate institutions. You'll undoubtably be at one of them.
3.) You can start college with an open mind and an open heart. Students generally fall in love with their college. You will probably be at a major research institution. You will find students smarter than you. Even schools you might consider a safety typically have 500-1,000 freshmen with SAT scores over 1400.(highest number reported). You will get an excellent education.

Not Admitted
Every year plenty of top students who only applied to elite schools with schools like Berkeley and Michigan as their safeties, find they didn't get accepted anywhere.

First of all, this is a terrific life lesson in being overconfident. "Pride before a fall," my grandmother used to say. Better now than when you overpay for a company you were sure you could turn around.

1.)Take a week--or whatever you need--and let yourself grieve. This is one heck of a blow.
2.) Keep applying. There are colleges that are still accepting applications. This is probably not a strong option. These are schools, that for the most part, are struggling or not selective.
3.) Gap Year. This is a perfect excuse for a gap year. I had a student who did this and she got into the colleges she wanted a year later. She was a highly competitive skier, so she skied the world circuit during her gap year. Unfortunately, it may be tough to just plug into a gap year program due to Covid-19, so you will have to develop your own plan. This will show grit and creativity and colleges say they like gap year students.
4.) Community College. This is your best option for transferring to a UC. The UC system admits 14,000 community college transfers each year. Nearly 30% of UC graduates started at a community college. De Anza college sends about 2,500 students a year to UC Berkeley and UCLA. California Community Colleges are designed to feed the UC system significantly better than a CSU like San Jose State.

What not to do
If taking a gap year, do not take any college classes after you graduate high school. If you take one class you are automatically a transfer student, will have to earn more credits before you can apply and you will not be applying as a recent high school graduate.

Finally, be nice to each other. Students are better at talking to other students during tough times than anyone else. Life-long bonds are formed in the crucible of pain. This will be hard with Covid-19, but please reach out to each other, even if you don't know what to say. Just being there for someone really counts.
What is it worth to you?


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