College Admissions for Alternative Schooled, Homeschooled, and Unschooled Applicants

Today, the Common Application goes live, and with it the college admissions season is once again here. And today, hundreds of thousands of rising high school seniors begin transitioning from the thrill of imagining themselves in a variety of university settings as they flip through college websites and view books to the anxiety of filling out applications and wondering if they will get into a college that is prestigious enough for their parents to place a sticker of that college on the back of the family car(s). While students who were able to opt out of traditional (public and private) schools so that they could go to a progressive alternative school, be homeschooled, or unschool themselves were able to avoid much of the stress associated with the ever-present college admissions arms race that has fully permeated the high school experience, they are often less sure of the next steps forward because they do not have a clear understanding of the application process or how they measure up against other college applicants. This essay serves as a brief primer for these applicants moving forward.

Harvard University

Harvard University

Start Early

Ideally you (or your children) are not applying this year, and instead are planning to apply several years down the road. Those who begin earlier rather than later have significant advantages because they can be more thoughtful about building an interesting and relevant transcript, conduct meaningful research of their target schools, prepare for standardized tests, manage potential recommenders, and endlessly edit their essays until they near perfection. Additionally, those who understand that the college admissions process is a game can turn the game on its head by leading a remarkable life over the period of several years, as opposed to trying to package themselves in the 11th hour (see “It’s a Game” below). Some of this advice will be geared toward those who start earlier, but even those who wait until the summer before applications are due before they dive in can benefit from a better understanding of the admissions process and what they can bring to it.

It’s a Game

College admissions is not a meritocracy; it is a game. Sadly, it is a game that weighs heavily on applicants and parents, and it is often seen as a decision that can make or break one’s future prospects. Even more sad is that college admissions decisions have little to do with merit, and much to do with class and privilege. It is essential for applicants to recognize that the college admissions process is not fair, and that the decisions that colleges make in favor or against an applicant have absolutely no bearing on the academic or personal worth of that applicant. Easier said than done. But when an applicant recognizes that college admissions is a game, and they know the rules of the game (and how to hack it), they are more likely to be successful at the game. And an applicant that opts out of traditional schooling has a huge leg up in the admissions game.

Stanford University

Stanford University

Building a Transcript

Hopefully, most young people who are alternatively schooled, homeschooled, or unschooled know that a high school degree is largely worthless. No reputable college or university in the United States requires a high school degree. However, all colleges will want to see a transcript, and this is one area of several where non-traditionally schooled applicants have a sizeable advantage. The time and effort that typical high school students put into their transcripts usually ends with a verification that they are hitting all graduation requirements (e.g., 4 math credits, 4 science credits, 4 ELA credits) and a quick calculation to determine which honors and AP classes they should take to boost their GPA relative to their peers. But young people who are responsible for their educational pathways have the opportunity to walk admissions committees through a unique journey that was tailored to the applicant’s needs, goals, and interests. The best way to do this is to celebrate how the applicant spent their time engaged in deep, meaningful, and enduring learning experiences, without trying to conform it to a standard academic transcript (e.g., 4 math credits, 4 science credits, 4 ELA credits).

Additionally, letter grades or percentages are meaningless on a non-traditional transcript unless it shows anything less than a perfect GPA, which would hurt an applicant. Those who opt out of the traditional schooling system should never introduce the rank ordering aspects of grading that pull applicants down.[1]

Standardized Testing

Another benefit of opting out of traditional schooling is that young people get to avoid the relentless testing that is required in the classroom and for the state (e.g., Texas STAAR, New York Regents). Testing serves as a means for lazy politicians, bureaucrats, administrators, and teachers to assess and sort students, at the expense of students. Hopefully, the first time any young person takes a test is if they opt into it for their own benefit, such as taking the PSAT or an AP test. However, one of the very few downsides to a non-traditional education is that many colleges will lean more heavily on standardized test scores during the admissions process. While the SAT or ACT most often serves as a disqualifier for top private colleges and universities (and as an automatic qualifier for many lower ranked private or state schools), non-traditional applicants may have a more difficult time overcoming a poor SAT or ACT score than a traditionally schooled applicant who has a perfect GPA and ranks at the top of their class might.

The good news for non-traditional applicants is they should have ample time to prepare for the tests without being burdened by the unnecessary time requirements associated with traditional schooling (e.g., compulsory attendance, mandatory classes, homework, studying, testing). And for those who do not perform well on standardized tests even with plenty of prep, there are now over 900 colleges and universities that do not rely on or require standardized tests in the application process.

It is worth noting that the most exclusive schools also require or “recommend” applicants submit SAT subject tests with their application. Non-traditional applicants should treat SAT subject tests as required if a school “recommends” them, and as recommended if a school “considers” them. Similar to the SAT and ACT, these tests can hurt an applicant’s prospects if they are low, but are unlikely to substantially help since so many applicants score in the high 700s or 800 on these tests.

Yale University

Yale University

Building a College List

Traditionally schooled applicants typically have an easier time than non-traditional applicants have of zeroing in on schools to apply to because (1) they are more likely to focus on college rankings as a guide for constructing their list, and (2) based on their class rank and GPA at their particular school, combined with their standardized test scores, they can lean on their guidance counselor or Naviance to help them identify the highest ranked schools where they have a chance of admission. Unfortunately, this approach results in a high volume of applications to a wide range of schools, lower quality applications, excessively high rates of anxiety, and very often a failure to identify best fit colleges.

Non-traditional applicants can more easily overcome the aforementioned challenges because they are more likely to ‘understand thyself’ thanks to years of self-directed learning (or less coercive schooling) and reflection, and are therefore are more likely to be drawn to colleges based on what opportunities and experiences the colleges can provide the applicant in accordance with their needs, as opposed to being drawn to colleges based on their rank. This process will still lead many of these non-traditional applicants to elite, private research universities such as Harvard and Stanford, but others may find that the flagship state school or even starting out at a local community college may be more advantageous for them, while many others may be drawn to liberal arts colleges that are less selective than the elite research universities but that arguably provide the best college education of all.

From a strategic perspective, fewer schools are better than many in the college admissions game. By focusing on only the most selective schools as opposed to the best fit schools, many applicants are driven to apply to upwards of two dozen colleges that may each have single or low double digit acceptance rates. In doing so, they undermine their chances by stretching themselves thin on supplemental essays, applying to schools that their applications will not resonate with, and failing to help recommenders (especially optional recommenders) tailor their letters to a target group of schools. Applying to a bunch of schools also costs a lot of money.

Many counselors and consultants recommend applying to 6-10 schools, but we would recommend applying to no more than five schools. We have advised applicants to only apply to schools they would be thrilled to attend because of what they could make of the experience, whether it is Harvard, Stanford, State Flagship University, or Directional State U. We highly recommend against applying to safety schools as something to fall into if best fit schools do not work out. We also recommend against applying to any schools that do not require supplemental essays beyond what is required in the Common Application or Coalition Application, unless the applicant feels that the school is a great fit for their needs. Schools that do not have additional essay prompts often benefit from having large numbers of lazier applicants apply because of the marginal effort required (an application fee), making it more difficult for a non-traditional applicant to drive home their unique story to the admissions committee. [The author of this essay applied to only three universities: West Point for college, Stanford and Harvard for business school, and Harvard for education school. The author has never been rejected and attributes much of that to being able to submit a near perfect application on the factors that he was able to control or have considerable influence over (e.g., essays, recommendations).]

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley

Four-year Colleges vs. Community Colleges

Community colleges are a fabulous higher education alternative for both traditional and non-traditional applicants who are concerned about the cost of college, distance from home, or who may not be able to gain immediate access to more selective universities. Unfortunately, many people (especially in more affluent communities [and charter school networks]) seem to look down on them as an option because they do not carry with them an air of exclusivity. However, while many applicants and parents may find themselves on the outside looking in after the college admissions season, for many top state universities, community college is an excellent end-around into school, with many offering automatic admission based on GPA.[2] Community colleges have particular leverage among many elite public universities such as Berkeley and UCLA where upwards of 20 percent of the undergraduates come from community colleges. Although the percentage of community college transfers at the University of Texas at Austin is lower than it is at the California schools, over 40 percent of transfer students into UT-Austin come from community colleges.[3]

When to Apply

Sooner is always better than later in the admissions game. While some recommend holding off until Regular Decision (historically January 1st or 15th) so that applicants can build up their bonafides, it is extremely rare that someone is going to be able to add anything to their application in a couple of extra months that will seriously move the admissions committee. The cost of delaying until Regular Decision is missing out on the opportunity to apply Early Decision, Early Action, or Restricted Early Action. And the chances of admission at most schools are substantially higher for those who apply early rather than later. Many counselors and consultants also advise applicants with financial need to apply Regular Decision because they believe that applying early locks them into a school with no opportunity to compare financial aid offers. This is also a misplaced argument. First, those with the most financial need are most likely to benefit from the free room, board, and tuition that is offered by the most selective colleges with the most generous financial aid (e.g., Harvard, Princeton, Stanford). Second, all schools allow their applicants an out of a binding admission if they can demonstrate that they cannot afford to attend. Third, many schools are need blind during early admissions, but become need aware later in the admissions process, meaning those with need are even more disadvantaged by waiting to apply.

It is also worth noting that many applicants can have multiple bites of the early admissions apple. Early Decision (ED) limits applicants to applying to only one school and they must enroll if accepted (or forego college altogether unless they can be released from their commitment due to financial or other exigent circumstances). Some of the more exclusive universities that have ED include Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, and University of Pennsylvania, as well as some of the most exclusive liberal arts colleges such as Amherst and Williams. However, some schools also have an Early Decision Round 2, which allows people who fail to earn admission to their first-choice ED school to apply to another ED school. Although this is no longer an “early” admission, it is binding. More exclusive schools with an ED round 2 include NYU, Pomona, Swarthmore, Tufts, Vanderbilt, and Wellesley. Instead of Early Decision, applicants can choose to apply Early Action (EA) which does not bind them to the school should they gain admission. This allows them to apply with an increased likelihood of admission (although not as much of an advantage as ED) without taking away other potential college options. Some of the more selective schools with an EA round include CalTech, Chicago, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. Finally, a small number of schools offer Restrictive Early Action (REA) where applicants can apply early and get a non-binding response but can only apply to one school early. This means that they can apply to either a bunch of EA schools, or one REA school, but not a mixture of the two. The four most selective universities in the country happen to offer REA: Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

Crafting a Story

Another tremendous advantage of applying as a non-traditional applicant is that it is remarkably easy to come across as interesting, accomplished, and intellectually curious to the admissions committee. Most schooled students simply do not have time to be interesting, accomplished, or intellectually curious. They are stuck in required classes in school for 5 to 7 hours per day for 180 days per year for 13 years of their lives, in addition to the all of hours they spend on expected extracurricular activities and sports, required service hours, and the many more hours of homework and studying needed to finish at the top of their class. There is a reason why most high achievers are perpetually exhausted—there is not sufficient time to sleep. Especially for those who come from feeder high schools and the schools that wish they were feeder schools.

On the other hand, non-traditionally schooled applicants are able to lead remarkable, interesting lives. It is not a given that they will, especially for those who attend schools where they have little to no say over how they spend their time, or for homeschoolers who are forced to work though boxed or online curriculum. But when young people have the freedom and time to take learning down pathways that meet their needs, they get to engage in the type of deep, meaningful, and enduring learning experiences that turn them from just another applicant with good numbers into someone who captures the attention of the admissions committee as well as future classmates. When those experiences are coupled with a level of intellectual vitality that rarely survives the k-12 schooling process (because of the coercive nature of schooling), colleges are eager to offer admission and bring these applicants onto campus.

It is not sufficient to have a great story, however. An applicant must also be able to tell a great story, and that is where the college essays and recommendations come in. Telling that story in a way that moves an admissions committee that reads tens of thousands of applications is challenging. It is why a select number of college admissions consultants charge over $20,000 to their clients. But non-traditionally schooled applicants typically have ample essay fodder to work with, and they typically have a sense of purpose or a mission in life that allows them to string that essay fodder into a powerful and compelling personal story.

The University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin

Decision Time

Almost as stressful as the application process is the decision process once the offers roll in (if an applicant is not bound by an Early Decision offer of admission). Non-traditional applicants have a tremendous advantage over their traditionally schooled peers in picking a college and in taking advantage of the resources available to them at the next level. This is because traditional school applicants have been fighting to get to the top of their high school class, because ranking ahead of peers is deemed necessary to success, and now they are moving on to 13th grade with a vision of climbing to the top of their college class. To too many traditionally schooled students education is about satisfying teachers and competing against peers, as opposed to learning. The non-traditionally schooled person has more likely seen education as a collection of experiences that have allowed them to understand themselves and to grow as intellectuals and humanitarians. Education to them is an opportunity, not a competition, and because of that perceived opportunity they are more likely to choose the college that is the best fit for them, as opposed to obsessing over college rankings. They are also more likely to take advantage of the many opportunities at college that they can use to continue to grow, as opposed to being worried about going down the same path as all of their pre-med and Goldman Sachs bound peers.

Good luck to all the non-traditionally schooled young people out there who are heading into the college admissions season. You have tremendous advantages in the admissions game, but more importantly, you will have tremendous opportunities to make the most of your college experience.

Great educations aren’t passive experiences; they’re active ones.”
~Frank Bruni

Far more significant than where you go to school, however, is why and how.”
~ William Deresiewicz

1.     Grading also undermines the learning process. Any school that grades their students, fails their students. There is never a reason for an alternative school to engage in this destructive practice.

2.     For example, the University of Virginia is one of the most prestigious public schools, often considered a “public ivy,” and offers Virginia community college graduates who meet very reasonable standards a guaranteed admission into UVA, https://admission.virginia.edu/vccsguide

3.     Conversation with UT-Austin admissions office, August 1, 2017 

Cross posted at Alt Ed Austin: part 1, part 2.



The Academic Index at Ivy League Schools

Student athletes who hope to be recruited to play a Division I sport in the Ivy League* sooner or later come across the Academic Index (“AI”). The Academic Index was originally developed to ensure that the eight colleges of the Ivy League didn’t excessively lower their academic standards for recruited athletes in order to field competitive athletic teams. Since then, their use by admissions committees has bled into the general applicant pool, which is unfortunate for the larger pool of applicants. 

The AI is a combination of a student’s GPA, SAT scores, and SAT II scores. Every candidate to the Ivy League is given an AI number, even those who are not recruited athletes. The AI ranges from a low of 60 to a high of 240. At the most selective schools (Harvard, Yale, and Princeton), the average AI for each admitted class hovers around 220. The AI formula is not publicly available, and they regularly review and tweak it. People can make fairly good approximations, as I will below, but the AI formula is held close to the vest by the various athletic departments and admission departments at the Ivy League schools.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical candidate “Tim” who wants to play football at Harvard. Tim may not have spent much time focused on school work or SAT prep while in high school, but all of a sudden the coach at Harvard has shown interest in the candidate. The candidate was previously considering other FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA) schools, but the prospect of going to Harvard has brought it to the top of his list.

Unfortunately for Tim, he has SAT scores of 670 M, 600 R, 590 W, and a 3.6 GPA, which means his AI is around a 196.

So does a 196 AI mean that Tim stands a good chance of being accepted through the admissions process? Not really, but the chances of getting in given a certain AI score depends on the athlete. The pool of recruited athletes from all sports at a given school needs to have an AI that is within one standard deviation of the student body’s AI at that school. Because the academic standards at the Ivy Leagues are pretty robust to begin with, the AI doesn’t give recruited athletes nearly the advantage that many would hope for in the admissions process. However, because the average only needs to be within one standard deviation of the student body mean, coaches are able to get candidates with lower academic records in, depending on their pull with the admissions department and the priority a coach puts on those individual candidates.

Also, not all sports are created equally. The tennis team is not going to get many (if any) favors from the admissions department. The football and basketball teams do. Hockey at Yale does, and lacrosse at Princeton does, as well. 

Even with the pull the football team may have with admissions, not all positions on the football team are created equally. Lineman are not going to get many favors from the admissions department unless the lineman are highly rated recruits. Impact players such as quarterbacks and cornerbacks, however, may be given priority by coaches. In the Ivy League, football coaches are only allowed to present 30 recruits to the admissions committee. Further, they are limited on where those recruits fall according to their AI score. According to numbers previously put out by two different Ivy League football programs, about 7-8 of those 30 recruits must fall in Band 4 (the top band), which is above the campus average. Another 12-13 football recruits must fall in Band 3 or higher, which goes down to 1 standard deviation below the campus AI (should be above the athletic AI). Another 7-8 recruits must fall in Band 2 or higher, and perhaps another 1-2 can fall in Band 1, which bottoms out at a score of 176.

Now, let’s talk specifically about Tim. If Tim was high up in Band 4 (the highest one), he might get some consideration as someone who could pull the overall pool up, but he isn’t there. He can’t change his GPA so no amount of SAT prep will get him there. Tim seems to be somewhere in Band 2 or 3. Band 3 is a good place to be if one is a recruited athlete. 

Let’s assume that Tim studies really diligently and scores a 730 in each of his SAT II tests. That would bring his AI up to around a 206. If we also assume that on top of that, Tim is able to boost his SAT score to a 710 M, 650 W, 630 R. That would jump his AI up to around 211. All of a sudden, Tim becomes a little more attractive to the Harvard coaching staff because they don’t have to pressure the admissions department to let him in, and he will help move the team AI up a little bit, allowing them to take more risk on an impact player.

Unfortunately, the Ivy League’s attempt to ensure a certain level of academic integrity in admissions for recruited athletes has only dumbed down what should be a holistic process where SAT scores and GPA are nothing more than markers to consider. The Academic Index’s emphasis on test scores and GPA means that not only do amazing athletes get turned away in the admissions process, but non-athletes who could add considerable value to the universities are also given a handicap on top of a handicap in the process. In the long run, this undermines the admissions departments’ efforts to put together the most diverse, talented, and intellectually curious classes in a way that may be even more pernicious than the focus on SAT scores for the US News rankings. 

* The Ivy League is an athletic conference consisting of eight of the oldest research universities in the country. All of the schools consistently rank in the top 15 of the US News rankings. The schools are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell.

Are college admission consultants worth the price?

When I meet with a prospective client (a young person and his or her family), I am far too eager to tell them what colleges look for in applicants, what steps they need to immediately take in order to be able to demonstrate those attributes to college admissions departments, and then I tell them it typically costs $20,000-60,000 to retain me. They often believe that once they know that colleges want to see intellectual vitality, excellence, academic achievement, and diversity; and that if they execute on my initial “must act,” prescriptive steps; that they will have their children on track for admission into Harvard or Stanford. At that point, they often believe that they no longer need an admission consultant. They are often wrong. In this post I will talk about the reasons why a given family may benefit from a college admission consultant, and whether or not it makes sense to pay me tens of thousands of dollars for consulting.

A good college admission consultant is multifaceted – serving multiple functions. Most provide reassurances to parents that they aren’t squandering opportunities, or worse, ruining their children’s lives, and they help simplify a sometimes confusing and almost always stressful admissions process. Most help provide guidance on course selection and what extracurriculars to engage in, as well as which summer programs to attend. Many help construct a list of reasonable colleges to apply to, with safety and reach schools thrown in, and some (not many) even focus on making sure that the schools on that list are aligned with the interests of the child. And almost all will help with essay writing and editing.

Like those who are generally considered the best consultants, I conduct an audit of past experiences, and provide guidance on how to build an academic portfolio that colleges will respect. I also provide guidance on standardized testing and extracurricular activities. During the college admissions process, I help clients identify colleges where they would thrive, and then I help walk them through the application process. I help them find their voice, as well as a common thread that will tie together every component of the application. However, unlike most college admission consultants, I help manage the recommendation process, and I edit up to dozens of turns of the essays for the applicant in order to make the essays perfect.

In the case of Abrome, I also uniquely serve as a coach who helps young people lead remarkable lives. I help them identify their needs, goals, and interests, and then I help them structure for themselves deep, meaningful, and enduring learning experiences that allow them to demonstrate remarkable lives led. It is not sufficient for a young person to articulate what their goals and objectives are; they must be able to implement a plan of action to satisfy those goals and objectives. I help young people use project management and leadership tools to make their goals and objectives a reality, so that they can lead a remarkable life well before the age of 18. When young people are able to construct remarkable lives for themselves, admission committees are typically able to see excellence and intellectual vitality through the experiences that those young people invested their time into. I am the only college admission consultant, that I know of, who focuses on helping clients lead remarkable lives, which is why about half of my clients have gotten into Harvard and/or Stanford, and why 75% of my clients have gotten into a US News top 10. I don’t try to help my clients play the game better than everyone else, I focus on helping my clients create lives that convince college admission offices that they cannot afford to not accept my clients.

Whether or not I am worth the price I charge, however, is dependent upon a given applicant and their family’s circumstances. If the student is solely focused on getting into a state school, where they expect to get straight A’s in order to get into medical school or law school, then they do not necessarily need to pay me, or any other consultant, tens of thousands of dollars to help them. Getting into most state schools is simply a matter of execution – good grades and good standardized test scores. For a small group of highly competitive state schools such as UC-Berkeley, UCLA, and UVA, the Abrome approach allows clients to rather easily gain admission where a sizable majority are denied.                 

Whether or not I am worth the price I charge is also dependent upon the timing and goals of an applicant and her family. I have consistently placed clients in schools that are a tier or two higher than where they could get in without my assistance. For that reason, I am able to benefit clients who come to me in the Junior or Senior years of high school who need a boost to be able to get into a school that is slightly out of their reach. If they would have been able to get into Texas State without my help, I can reliably get them into the University of Texas at Austin. If they would have been able to get into UC-Irvine without my help, I can reliably get them into UC-Berkeley or UCLA. If they would have been able to get into Rice or Vanderbilt without my help, I can reliably get them into Dartmouth or Duke. If they would have been able to get into Brown or Columbia without my help, I can reliably get them into Harvard or Stanford. If getting into a school that is one or two tiers higher than that which they could get into on their own is worth $20,000, then families are wise to retain me.             

Alternatively, short of a cognitive disability, if someone comes to me in 7th or 8th grade, I can virtually guarantee admission into a top ten school if the young person wants to go that route. By retaining me while they are still in middle school, I am able to help them use the time they have to create deep, meaningful, and enduring learning experiences that will ensure they are able to demonstrate excellence and intellectual vitality, while avoiding the pitfalls and red flags that most applicants are forced into. Specifically, I am able to help the client focus on activities that allow him to strengthen his reading, writing, and numeracy skills so that he will have a strong base to build off of for other academic pursuits, while setting him up for extraordinary SAT scores. I am able to help the client transition into a homeschooling or alternative schooling environment where she is not burdened by a destructive and neurotic time consuming focus on perfect grades at the expense of learning. I am also able to help him avoid engaging in extracurriculars and activities which many believe are necessary, but that are actually just a time sink with no benefit. I am, on the other hand, able to help them create over the span of four to six years a life that the overwhelming majority of adults would covet, because most adults were pushed into a system where they were dissuaded from focusing on capitalizing on their unique interests and talents so that they could play a game where most people are classified as under-performers. If leading a remarkable life and getting into a top college is worth $40,000 – 60,000, then families are wise to retain me. Especially considering that the average tuition at a top college prep school is usually double the average annual cost of Abrome, or more.

There are situations in which I am most certainly not worth the price I charge. The primary one is that in which a family is unwilling to give their child the time and space to invest in deep, meaningful, and enduring learning experiences. It is easiest for me to work with homeschoolers, or with alternative progressive schoolers who have little homework and no tests to worry about. Those families who insist their children attend a traditional school, get perfect grades, and heavily engage with multiple extracurriculars, however, are often not too keen on the idea of helping their children carve out dozens of hours per week to invest in new hobbies. Unfortunately, these parents are buying into a system that usually guarantees failure, while leaving their child only a few hours a week to focus on creating a remarkable life. When young people are given only a few hours a week to create a remarkable life, they usually fail to do so. A remarkable life led is not some sort of extracurricular. A remarkable life led is not something that can be sprinkled on top of dozens of hours in class, plus dozens of hours studying, plus dozens of hours invested in clichéd extracurricular activities per week. A remarkable life led typically involves a person investing the majority of their time into something that they love, something they care to develop for intrinsic reasons, and something that they enjoy more as the challenges become more complicated.

For those parents who are ready and willing to give their children the space necessary to flourish, I am eager to help their children do so. I am ready to help them get into Harvard or Stanford. And far more importantly, I am eager to help them lead remarkable lives.

Update: Abrome is opening a full-time learning center as an alternative to school. We will operate in West Austin and work directly with young people over a period of years so that they can lead remarkable lives, and get into top colleges if they choose. We will still work with the families who previously retained us and those who are applying to college for matriculation in 2017. However, we will begin to move away from college admissions consulting as a business over the next couple of years. We encourage families who are near Austin, TX to consider enrolling their children at Abrome.

You should apply by November 1st if you want to get into Harvard or Stanford (or Yale, Princeton, MIT, Penn, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown …)

In our previous post, we tried to drive home the harsh reality that college admissions is not a meritocracy; it is a game. And if you plan on attending Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Columbia, Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Brown or any other elite school, and you haven’t already begun working on your application, then you are already losing the game. Early Action and Early Decision applications for the most competitive schools are due on November 1st, meaning you have less than 60 days to take advantage of your best hope to get into one of these top colleges.

The Common Application was initially devised as a tool to ease the stress of college applicants, so that applicants would not have to work so hard to apply to multiple schools. However, that has backfired and now applicants are more stressed than ever as they apply to more and more schools each year, shooting up the number of applications to each and steadily decreasing the admissions rates. Very few schools can focus entirely on bringing in the best class possible. Even the Harvards and Stanfords of the world must concern themselves with acceptance rates and yields; else they lose ground in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings.

In years past, applicants needed to manage multiple unique essays, manage recommenders and fill out school specific administrative data for each school. The common app has simplified the recommender and administrative data requirements, and greatly reduced the number of essays that must be written, though many schools require supplemental essays (e.g., PrincetonStanford).  Trying to keep their admissions rates low, elite colleges continue to employ early admissions policies despite acknowledging that such policies disproportionately benefit the rich and privileged at the expense of the poor and disadvantaged. Early Action and Early Decision typically restricts each applicant to apply to only one* school in the fall, so schools know that those applicants that they accept early are much more likely to attend than those applicants they will accept in the regular decision round. Likewise, applicants who know how to play the game recognize that by committing to apply to a school Early Action or Early Decision that they can greatly improve their chances of admission at that school. With the exception of MIT, an applicant’s chance of admission through EA/ED relative to regular decision is at least 2.5 times greater at all of the top colleges and universities. And at Harvard, an EA/ED applicant is over six times more likely to be accepted than a regular decision applicant!

Those applicants who do not apply EA/ED to a school that they would be eager to attend are doing themselves a great disservice. Furthermore, those applicants who plan to write their essays in the few weeks before the admissions deadline are also doing themselves a great disservice. The clients we work with typically complete one dozen to two dozen turns of each essay, meaning that a client will be drafting, writing, editing or re-writing at least one essay a day for well over a month. The clients we work with will be working on their administrative data and will be managing their recommenders during this time, as well. This is why we insist, if you haven’t already begun working on your application, then you are already losing the game.

If you want to get in the game, we can help. Please refer to our admissions consulting services page and reach out to us if you are ready to apply to a top college or university. We will help you identify the school that you should apply early to based on your credentials, your goals and your fit with the school. We will then help you craft a story (with perfect essays and great recommendations) that will best position you for admission. Additionally, our services cover unlimited applications during the regular admissions cycle – although if you play the game right there’s a good chance that you’ll know where you are going to attend college by the end of December.

Contact us today if you want to get into Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Penn, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown …

* Because MIT is the most obvious exception to the restrictive EA/ED policies at other schools, it effectively is no different as applicants can’t apply to any other elite schools under their EA/ED policies.