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Should Students Be Selected for College Randomly or Strategically?

by Angelina

The topic of getting into college has been hotly debated for years. Universities, some say, use careful planning and strategy, while others say the system is completely arbitrary. Is there a lottery system in place, or do universities primarily look at standardized test scores and GPAs when making admissions decisions? You can improve your scores on the SAT or ACT and your chances of getting into college by following the advice in this book.

The Admissions Process: Random or Strategic?

Holistic Admissions Process:

When making their final decision, admissions officers at universities in the United States take into account a variety of factors. “Holistic” admissions is one term for this approach. Some examples are grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, personal statements, and letters of recommendation. The process is not completely arbitrary, though there is some room for interpretation. College admissions officers are looking for well-rounded candidates with interesting perspectives and experiences to share. It’s possible that at first glance, you won’t make the connection between filling out a college application and spinning the slots at a casino. However, due to their shared randomness, both processes provide fertile ground for interesting analogies. This analysis compares the role of chance in college admissions decisions to that of slot machine odds in casinos. Applying to college is like playing the slots in that it’s all up to chance. Successful applicants know that the strategic and all-encompassing college admissions process is where they have the best chance of increasing their chances of acceptance. Slot machines, on the other hand, are operated by purely random number generators (RNGs), rendering any player skill or strategy moot. The analogy serves as a gentle reminder that, even though randomness and chance may seem to be the norm, people can improve their outcomes through educated decision-making and strategic efforts. Read more about the randomness of slot games over at SpinGenie.com.

The Role of Admissions Officers:

Admissions officers are responsible for evaluating candidates and making decisions based on the information they provide in their applications. They are experts in their field and never deviate from company policy. This ensures a truly random result to the procedure. The admissions process is less random and more strategic because it takes into account the institution’s values and goals.

Tips to Increase Chances of College Acceptance and Test Performance:

1. Earn Good Grades in Challenging Courses

Colleges and universities give more weight to applications from students who have shown academic excellence through high GPAs and the completion of rigorous coursework. According to a 2019 survey by the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC), nearly 75 percent of schools place a high value on students’ academic performance. A good GPA gets you through the first round,” says Christina Skeldon, a college counselor and executive functioning coach at JBG Educational Group. “The next step is to focus on what makes this particular student stand out. When they weren’t in class, how did they spend their time? A student is the only reasonable assumption for their occupation.” It is in your best interest to take as many rigorous courses as possible, especially in your junior and senior years, as over 80% of schools ranked curriculum rigor as at least somewhat important. Consider carefully which advanced placement, honors, or International Baccalaureate courses to take. universities “like to see that students challenged themselves and took higher-level courses in areas that they are strong in,” as explained by Skeldon.

2. Get a High SAT/ACT Score

Despite the growing popularity of test-optional policies in recent years, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, SAT/ACT scores remain useful indicators of whether an applicant will be admitted to a four-year university. The NACAC found that over 80% of colleges and universities place moderate to high value on students’ test scores. If a college or university doesn’t ask for your SAT or ACT scores, you should still send them. Many high school juniors take the SAT or ACT in the spring of their junior year to see if they need to retake the exam in the fall of their senior year. The best way to get ready for either exam is to use the official practice questions and tests that are widely available for free online. Tutoring, classes, and books are also viable options for SAT/ACT prep.

3. Write a Compelling Personal Statement

Now that many colleges and universities don’t require the SAT or ACT for admission, the personal statement is more important than ever. NACAC found that 51% of colleges and universities valued the essay or writing sample. Your application essay is a key selling point. According to Skeldon, a well-written essay can tell you more about a candidate than their GPA or test scores. Don’t rush into deciding on a topic or trying to reinvent the wheel. The goal here is to share a fun fact about your life.

4. Demonstrate Interest

According to a recent NACAC study, the level of interest shown by prospective students is a crucial factor for 40% of the schools surveyed. The best way to show admissions officers that you’re serious about attending their school is to pay them a visit, take a tour, and talk to prospective students and staff. Skeldon insisted that a proper visit be made. I think it looks good when a student reaches out to the admissions office and requests an interview because some schools still require them. It’s also a good idea to follow the school’s social media accounts and register for online seminars aimed at prospective students, as well as interacting with professors in your intended field.

5. Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation

Recommendation letters are essential because they shed light on an applicant’s character beyond what can be seen in their grades and test scores. That’s why it’s so important to have references who can vouch for your abilities, achievements, and character. Three to five letters of recommendation are typically requested from teachers and guidance counselors during the senior year of high school. Make your request in an appropriate manner. Make sure you ask about this at least a month before any deadlines have to be submitted. Provide your recommender with plenty of time to write a glowing recommendation letter on your behalf.

6. Apply to a Diverse Selection of Colleges

A student should apply to all three of their desired schools (safety, match, and reach). Talk to your high school’s guidance counselor about the colleges you’re interested in applying to and the likelihood of getting in. You have a good shot at fitting in if you choose these individuals as matches and safeties. After you’ve done that, it’s time to start considering “reach schools,” or those where you have a slimmer chance of being accepted. Don’t forget that most students can’t afford to study at highly selective colleges like those in the Ivy League or even at highly selective private universities like Stanford. If you apply to multiple schools, you increase your odds of being accepted by at least one.

7. Opt for an Early Admission Plan

Research shows that submitting applications to colleges and universities early improves acceptance rates. This is due to the fact that more students are accepted into colleges during early decision and early action periods. Skeldon is relentless in his insistence that applications be submitted promptly. Early November is when you should send in your applications for both programs. If you apply before the December deadline, you should receive an update on your admissions status much sooner. Early decision applicants make a binding commitment to enroll at their chosen institution should they be offered admission. Early action students are exempt from these requirements.

8. Manage Your Online Reputation

Officers in charge of granting acceptances are increasingly researching applicants online, including perusing their social media profiles. Get rid of any embarrassing or inappropriate content from your online profiles before sending in your college applications. Skeldon suggested people keep their social media profiles private and stressed the importance of having a professional email address. It’s also a good idea to do a Google search for your name to make sure there’s nothing unflattering associated with it.

9. Get Help When You Need It

You shouldn’t go through the process of applying to colleges by yourself. Consult a guidance counselor or teacher with relevant experience if you feel lost during the application process. Parents, friends, and older siblings are also good resources for information about applying to college and adjusting to life on campus. Finally, double-check your application for grammatical errors. Skeldon emphasized the value of getting feedback on your work from others. One cannot overstate the significance of correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

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