Low college acceptance rates pressure students to look into personal fit with schools

MORE THAN JUST A NUMBER: Senior Joe Philleo plays chess at Chess Club. Philleo said he hopes the college he ends up going to will have many opportunities to play chess both competitively and for fun. VISHNU VAID // PHOTO

MORE THAN JUST A NUMBER: Senior Joe Philleo plays chess at Chess Club. Philleo said he hopes the college he ends up going to will have many opportunities to play chess both competitively and for fun. VISHNU VAID // PHOTO


Senior Joe Philleo has applied to several of the most well-known and prestigious universities in the country: Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are all possibilities for him.

Furthermore, he said he thinks he has a good chance of being accepted into these “dream schools.”

College Did you know 2Besides including the necessary element of academic excellence, Philleo’s college transcript also includes accomplishments such as being the president of Key Club, starting his own website and several other extracurricular activities, such as Chess Club.

Philleo is certainly not the only qualified applicant at these colleges.

Each year, the top American colleges report receiving tens of thousands of strong applications.

However, up to 95 percent of these qualified applicants will ultimately be rejected.

In fact, schools such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale and MIT have reported a consistent decline in acceptance rates over the past decade, despite the recent overall increase in applicants.

In 2015, college acceptance rates at top universities dropped as low as 5.05 percent for the first time ever, leaving soon-to-be graduates scrambling for ways to improve their college transcript.

Philleo said while lower acceptance rates may cause some students stress, obsessing over one’s chances of acceptance is unnecessary.

“I think there’s a prevalent view here where there’s ‘x’ amount of spots, and if someone gets something, then that means there’s one less spot available. I don’t think that’s really valid. I think, in general, we should be happy for the people who achieve something,” Philleo said. “On the whole, you’ll get placed into a school that’s good for you anyways.”College did you know 3

Melinda Stephan, college counselor at CHS, said she agrees with Philleo’s view on getting accepted to college.

She said students should aim for being accepted into the college that is the best fit for them, not the one with the lowest acceptance rates.

“Sometimes, I think that we are so stuck on the getting in, that we forget about succeeding when we get there, and being happy. That’s why we talk about fit, because really, fit is not about getting in. Fit is about being happy when you get there and being successful,” Stephan said.

College Did you knowCollege fit, how well a college matches a student’s needs, can be found in various aspects of a school.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, “fit” should include the location, cost, size, safety, curriculum, graduation rate and campus life of a college.

While a dream school often exceeds students’ limits academically and financially, schools that are a good fit correspond with their limits while still fulfilling their needs and wants.

In 2015, some of the most prestigious colleges released their suicide rates, revealing what happens when students do not focus on finding a school that is a good fit, leaving them unhappy when they begin attending college that they don’t feel completely comfortable at.

At MIT and Harvard University, for example, the undergraduate rates of suicide are higher than that of the national average for other schools’ undergraduates.

However, in both schools, the rate of suicide among graduate students was less than half of that of the undergraduates.

Finding the perfect college fit is not always easy.

Usually, an evaluation of a student’s academic and financial standing can be used to find the general type of college he or she should attend, as well as his or her personal preferences.

But for junior Abhinav Ramkumar, these evaluations can often end up giving inaccurate depictions of one’s college fit.

“They (evaluations) only take into account some major points. But the thing is, each person is unique and therefore only he or she can make that judgement for themselves,” Ramkumar said. “Pick a college that is good for you, and stick with that. Don’t get diverted by what other people say.”

As for how to be accepted into these colleges, Philleo said self-motivation is key.College graphic

According to Philleo, having lots of embellishments on a transcript like weighted classes or clubs, is not what ultimately determines whether or not a student is accepted into a college.

Philleo said he thinks the strongest part of his application was where he displayed a strong interest in learning, as well as his motivation to be actively involved in activities.

“I feel like I’m always busy doing something,” Philleo said. “There’s so many things that I do just because I don’t like not doing anything.”

Stephan said she agrees academics aren’t the only aspects of students’ applications colleges pay attention to. She added that weighted classes and extracurricular activities are designed to show how motivated students are to learn, not how academically ready students are for college.

Stephan said, “The vast majority of students that are denied from highly competitive colleges are qualified, and that’s a really hard pill to swallow. But I will tell you that if you are passionate about learning, and enjoyed it, you’re going to do great things no matter where you go, even if it’s not the school that only accepts 10 percent of applicants.”