BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw:
I am putting together a list of colleges to apply to this fall and I have heard that I should consider a few backup college choices, in the event that I do not get admitted to one of my top choices. So far I have 20 top tier colleges on my list, but I plan to pare that down to 10 or 12. My concern is that all of them rank at or near the top in the college rankings. My guidance counselor tells me that even second-tier colleges are becoming more selective and suggested that I take that into consideration when I select my backup schools. I would like to hear your thoughts.
High school senior
Second-tier colleges ‘the new Ivies’
Dear High School Senior: arvard, Yale, Dartmouth and the other Ivy League colleges are considered first-tier schools and are very difficult to gain admission to even with an outstanding academic record. Admission rates range from 6.1 percent at Harvard to 13 percent at Dartmouth.
Many students fail to realize that second-tier colleges can be as admissions-competitve as first tier schools and that each year the gap in admissions percentages is narrowing. Northwestern and Notre Dame are generally considered second-tier colleges with admission rates of 27 percent and 29 percent, respectively, but many students who apply to these schools as backups are rejected even though they have records similar to those of students admitted to the Ivy League. With the huge increase in outstanding international applicants at top colleges, second-tier colleges are now considered “the new Ivies.”
Most estimates are that 30 to 40 universities like Northwestern and Notre Dame actually benefit by admitting students turned down from schools like Harvard and Princeton because the academic records of these students have helped them climb in the overall rankings.
Many students are shocked when they are rejected or waitlisted by a second-tier college. Students who may not get admitted to Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Washington University in St. Louis, Rice, Emory or Georgetown are grateful that they picked backup colleges where admission is all but assured.
One of the reasons that admission to top tier schools is getting more difficult is simply one of supply and demand. The number of students graduating from high school has been increasing, and more students are interested in applying to top universities. Many high achieving students also are applying to more colleges than in the past — hedging their bets due to the uncertainty of admissions.
The overflow of students applying to second-tier colleges also has created its own spillover. Many state colleges and universities are seeing their rankings increase because students with higher grades and test scores are enrolling.
Listen to your high school counselor and think more broadly about the college application process. You need a good backup school to depend on.
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