Archive for the ‘Ivy League Admissions Data’ Category

Ivy League and Stanford Application Data for 2018/2019–How to Triple Your Chances for Admission

In Ivy League Admission Statistics, Ivy League Admissions, Ivy League Admissions Data, Ivy League Admissions Data, 2018-2019, Stanford Admissions, Stanford Admissions Data 2018-2019, Uncategorized on June 8, 2018 at 11:50 pm

Actually, you can more than triple your chances, on a purely mathematical basis. 

But First:  Who should read this post–Anybody interested in applying to the Ivy League or to Stanford this year. 

How to read this post:  Below you will find a (long) preface that gives some context to  the data and offers and analogy for applying to the most competitive colleges–things are not necessarily what they seem.  After that is a comparison of early and regular app results for some of the Ivies and Stanford. If you hate prefaces and prefer to avoid context, then just scroll on down to the numbers. But I think you would be well advised to consider what I say in the preface before going on to the data.

Preface:  Welcome to the Casino

Most people look at college admissions data as a probabilities thing.

This is not really a good way to look at the averages offered in the various data sets, because the average applies only to any group within a data set but not necessarily to any specific person in that group.  A college application is highly specific to you–or it should be.  Added to that, the colleges adjust what they are looking for year-to-year and even within the same application cycle as they go.

Add to that the fact that, with few exceptions, your application will be evaluated by a general purpose reader or committee of application officers, not by professors or people running specific majors and programs (a direct application to the U Michigan Business school would be one example of an exception to this rule, as are pretty much all graduate applications. Our focus here is on undergrads).  Your app readers will be rating your stuff against your peers, and there is a sliding scale:  Factors that are not known to you will shape the value of the elements of your application, on the margins for the most part, but this is a game of margins.  This is less true but still applies to some extent to so-called objective application schools, like the Cal State system, which “only” look at data–I have discussed this at length multiple times elsewhere.

Of course, there are probabilities to be found in the data–if you have a 3.68 unweighted G.P.A.  and are a nice person with wide interests but are not developing your grand theory to unit the physical laws of the universe and are not a heavily recruited athlete or prodigy cello player, you are not going to get into Harvard.  Period.

Other than that, the data on the most competitive schools can only tell if you have a seat at the table, not what your results will be, and  and let’s face it:  when it comes to the Ivy League and Stanford, for most of the best students, the game is more like rolling dice at a craps table than it is like playing Blackjack.

Let me explain by developing my casino analogy further:  if you are playing a card game like Blackjack,  you have a pretty decent idea of what your cards mean.  21, for example, and you probably win.  The cards are what they are, and their specific values never change.  Not so in college admissions, where perfect data may be trumped by other factors.

A college admissions portfolio, with its data, its essays, its activities and descriptions, its personal and family history, is not some set of cards randomly dealt out to you, and the payoff does not come by simply having a  an ace and a ten.  It’s true that having an unweighted 4.0 G.P.A. and perfect SAT score should get you some kind of Ivy admit, and hopefully more than one, but it’s also possible that if you took perfect numbers and applied to, say, Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia, that you would bust–get no admissions at all.  Yet if you get that ace and a ten in Blackjack, you have 21 and you win.

In college admissions, each of the top universities not only turn down hundreds of students with the equivalent of 21, they also accept quite a few students who have something like an 18, because there is something in the information that suggest some other value to the university.  In the case of that athlete who will looks very promising, maybe a hand of 16 is good enough. Again, I have discussed this elsewhere, but in just keeping alumni involved and happy, sports is big money to many colleges, and the return on investment an athlete can be huge–as it can for a prodigy who goes on to wealth and fame and returns some of that to a school.

What colleges are looking for–the relative value of any information in your application, the cards you bring to the table, changes not just year to year, but week to week during the application process.  Usually these changes are marginal, but if a school sees that their admitted students have been 70% female in the early applications, they will make an adjustment to get some kind of gender balance–not 50/50, but not 70/30 either.  For a coed school, that would not be a healthy balance.  So they stack the deck–in a way that, on average, is actually more fair than it might seem.

Colleges for the most part look to have some kind of balance in the community of scholars that they build with each application year.  Continuing our casino analogy for the most elite schools, the players sitting at the Blackjack table of college admissions are not coming with the same advantages, and many people build up their cards through paying for services and having access to good schools, while others just get the cards dealt to them and start with a relatively weak hand on any deal they take.

A good college app reader can see that, and they evaluate with a range of factors in mind, including the resilience and drive of a person who overcame a lot to get to that application.

Continuing my analogy, the casino owners, in this case the colleges and their admissions officers, change the value of the hand of a person who is a first-generation high-achiever as opposed to that of a high-achiever going to a good high school on the Peninsula in the Bay Area or in the Tri-Valley area (sorry to be a regionalist here, but the same applies to, say, kids in Princeton-area schools vs. Newark, etc).  This is not always a factor, but it often is.

But of the people I helped this year who got into Harvard, all had solid upper and middle-class backgrounds along with a range of accomplishments, some of which were clearly part of playing the game.  On the other hand, two years ago, I had a number who were first-gen to college and came from relatively poor backgrounds and borderline schools.  I see a lot of flux in my own clients every year, which is why you always want to tier your apps and be a bit zen about it, if you can.

This seems unfair and frustrating to many people when I explain it, but I don’t think it is, or it is at least more fair than it seems.  What is unfair is the fact that this country has by and large stopped building new universities, thus creating an inelastic supply (Econ!) and making my casino analogy apt.  And in this increasingly hyper-competitive college application game, social factors already rig college admissions long before any college application reader gets involved.  What kind of money your family has and where they are from generally  determines what kind of high school you go to and what kind of resources are available to you outside of school.  This is why housing values are so high in suburbs with good schools.

There are, of course, reasons that being in one of these excellent school districts is a huge advantage, and being able to pay your way can help at times, as well, so don’t be sorry if you are in one of these places.  But plan well, following some of the tips I offer in various posts in my blog.  Even if you have a 4.0. and perfect S.A. T.

And  if your data is on the low end of the range, you need to have something special for that doorman or bouncer or whatever image you prefer to open the door for you so you can even get a seat at the table.  If you are a rising senior, that means it’s time to start considering your essays as well as possibly retaking an SAT or ACT.

Okay, sermon over.

But please keep these things in mind when you look at the data I provide below, and build a list of colleges in which you include at least three schools in which 75% or more of the people with your data are admitted.


The Data:  Some Ivy League examples and Stanford


Princeton:  Early Admissions–15.4%; Regular Admissions–5.5% (6.1% last year)

Harvard:  Early Admissions–14.539%; Regular Admissions–4.59% (5.2% last year)

Yale:  Early Admissions–14.68%; Regular Admissions–6.3% (6.9% last year)

Columbia–5.5% admit rate; not data supplied for early admissions admit rate.

UPenn–Early Admissions–18.5%; Regular Admissions–8.39% (9.15% last year)

Brown: Early Admissions–21.7%*; Regular Admissions–7.2%

Cornell:  Early Admissions–24.3%; Regular Admissions–10.3%

Dartmouth–Early Admissions–24.9%; Regular Admissions–8.7%

Saving the toughest nut for last:

Stanford;  Regular Admissions–4.3%; Stanford has not released early application information, or not released it until the following year, for some time, but about 33% of the new class was admitted early.

*Oh, and The Brown early admissions asterisk is due to this data being released indirectly via a presentation, rather than through a press release.

On the face of it, it looks like you can triple your chances of admissions by applying early.  But look again at some more information–After you adjust for students already admitted in the early round, the actual admissions rate for regular-decision applications was 2.43%.  Ouch.

So if two things are true, burn an early app on one of these schools:

  1.  You know the school well and are totally committed to it. Even it they will let you look around after an early app admit, like Stanford, be committed.
  2.  Your data is in the range that suggests success (middle third or higher)

And hopefully you have a wide range of activities and can write some good essays.  I do have space for some new clients for editing, if you need help, so contact me if so:

College Application and Essay Editing Help

It it’s your turn to make a run at college this year, try to enjoy the ride, and come back soon.  I will be looking at some alternatives to the most competitive schools, starting with the unorthodox and moving to the more common.  See you soon.





The Usual Suspects: Admissions Resultsfor the Ivy League and West Coast Favorites

In College Application Data, Ivy League Admissions Data, Uncategorized, University of California Admissions Data on May 24, 2016 at 8:48 am

Who should read this article:  Anybody interested in applying to an Ivy League or U.C. school, oh yes, and Stanford.   I also include my opening discussion for the class of 2021 on brand, status and the Tesla test.

How many Teslas have you seen with college stickers on the back window?

Me neither, and I drive the highways  in the most Tesla-dense region in the country as I visit area clients.  I’ll get back to that after we get to some data, below.

So how bad was the application season?  Depends on where you applied.  Applications to the Ivies, Stanford, and some of their analogues and safety schools, which will be the topic of this post,  were very, very difficult.  Your leading example is Stanford, which dropped below a 5% admissions rate for the first time this year–and was the first university to do this. Applying to Stanford increasingly resembles playing the lottery for most applicants. Applications to hundreds of non-name brands and international options, not so much. Food for thought, and a topic I will discuss again soon.

Onward, to some of this year’s data:

University . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Number of Applicants / %Accepted*

Stanford University . . . . . . . .43,997/4.69

Harvard University . . . . . . . . .39,041/5.2%

Columbia University . . . . . . . .36,292/6.04%

Yale University . . . . . . . . . . . .31,455/6.27%

Princeton University . . . . . . . 29,303/6.46%

Duke University . . . . . . . . . . .28,600/8.7%

Brown University . . . . . . . . . . .32,380/9.0%

University of Pennsylvania  . . 39,918/9.4%

Dartmouth College . . . . . . . . . .20,675/10.525

Northwestern University . . . . .35,099/10.7%

Cornell University . . . . . . . . . .44,966/13.96%

U.C. Berkeley . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82,558 (frosh)/14.8%

U.C.L.A. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .97,064(frosh),119,326(ttl) No data on % yet.


Not a very friendly collection of numbers, is it?  The problem, as usual, is that classic  supply and demand equation in market theory.


Sure, there is a long-term structural problem in our economy, and yes, the elite universities offer superb educational opportunities, not to mention the prestige of an Ivy or Stanford sticker on the back windshield, and yes, your college friends can be part of a great network . . . . but the next Mark Zuckerberg is not going to come from a new social media platform at Harvard.   Sure, if you are admitted, go to Harvard (as long as the financials work).  But don’t go just to have the brand, especially if you know of a lesser place with a better deal for you, educationally and financially (is Harvard really the best place to go for software design/engineering?)

One of the most important things I do with college advising clients is help them  develop a wider list of options.  My mantra on target schools is this:  You should always have three tiers of schools in your application list, with the bottom tier being schools for whom your data puts you above the 75th percentile of admissions, the middle tier with schools for which your data makes you an “average” admit, and your reach schools making up the third tier–where your data is at 25% or below, though I add that if your data is below or near the bottom of a college’s admit data, it’s not likely to be worth the time to write the app essays, much less pay the app fee.  The chances of admission always have to be weighed against the strength of your dream, of course, and maybe that fusion reactor you are constructing in your garage will do the trick . . .

I have written about strategy and creating a good college list before, and will write about it again in relation to this year’s application season in the coming months, so look for that.

Much of the overcrowding in the world of college apps  is a result of what an economist would refer to as market distortion–in this case rooted in the growing fear many people have about their economic future and the chances for their children to have a life as prosperous as their own.  This sense of decline in economic prospects is well-documented, as is the reality that fuels these fears, and along with  a focus on a narrow range of well-known brands, you can see the  problem with the information in this particular “market.”

The brand advantage does have a real effect on income when you are first hired in a range of industries, but that effect fades quickly–mid-range income is an indicator of job performance, and job performance comes from an alloy of factors, including how good your education actually was, your motivation, and decision-making on the job.  Which brings me back to that Tesla.

I have not seen a college sticker on the back window of a Tesla.  Well, okay, I have seen a couple, but those were on the back windows of Tesla 3’s   Yep, we already have truckloads of those loose in my part of the world.  The thing about a Tesla, and a college sticker, is two-fold: first both are a statement of status.  Second, both affiliate you with a group of people.

But a Tesla is a status symbol that speaks for itself, environmentally friendly, elegant in design, superb in execution and performance . . . and the one person I currently know who is driving a Tesla Model S went to Humboldt State University (not the Humboldt U in Germany–the Cal State in Northern California, an area more known for certain herbal products than tech).  This person started as an art major, moved to graphic arts and from there focused more and more on Computers . . . and now runs his own medium-sized digital arts company now–a success story showing the power of education and curiosity.

The car he owns because, a, he likes it, and b, he thinks that environmentalism can only succeed if it is not just moral but enjoyable.  His mid-career income is excellent, he loves what he is doing, and he came out of a college that does not get much notice even as a regional school–ranked only 57th as a regional university (West) by U.S. News and World Report.  Something to keep in mind as you churn through rankings and discard schools that are not getting brand recognition.







College Admissions Data for 2013: A Look at Yield and Some Sympathy for the Devil

In Admissions Data for 2013, Admissions Yields for 2012, College Application Strategy, Harvard Admissions Data for 2012, Ivy League Admissions Data, Stanford Admissions Data for 2012, University of Chicago Admissions Data on June 21, 2013 at 4:51 pm

For many years, yield was vital to college rankings.   Universities tried not only to attract far more qualified applicants than they could possibly admit, they also tried to get a very high yield.  From the point of view of applicants, this was, well, a bit devilish.  The universities, of course, have a different point of view, and it’s worth considering their perspective as you begin the process of applying.

For those of you who are not up on the inside game of college admissions and its terminology (yet), yield is the  number of admitted students who then also actually enroll in the school instead of, say, turning down the school to enroll in their “other” first choice.  Yield was for many years important due to the U.S. News and World Report’s use of yield in its rankings of colleges, a practice they gave up years back. But yield remains, as a kind of ghost hanging around the theatre of college applications, influencing the general perception about how in demand a college is.  The psychology is not so dissimilar to that of the fashion industry in some ways, if you step back and squint your eyes a bit—or maybe not.  Too scary to visualize.

In any case,   universities today still  share their yield info with applicants; those universities with high yields share the information as a sales point (simply everybody, or at least  a supermajority of our admits wants to go to our school, etc.) and the others share presumably either so they won’t seem like they have something to hide or because they really are perfectly fine accepting students who were ranked in a top decile but who were not in the tiny cohort of the  top 1 to 3% of those who actually gain admissions to an elite Ivy or Stanford.

As a side note, for those of you who are already feeling the butterflies as you consider the odds of getting into, say, Princeton or Stanford, look:  You will find a surprising number of really excellent schools that accept the top 10-15% of students, and many people in fact get a great education for less debt at public schools with even “lower” standards.  Some of these less competitive schools have specific programs that compete with anybody.  Once you look beyond the same 10-15 schools that everybody else knows about and wants to apply to, you can find all kinds of hidden gems.  So breathe deep and relax as I present the admissions facts as they are, and I will, in upcoming posts, also help you look outside the envelope everybody else is staring into, including looking at cheaper and less well-known but still excellent domestic options, as well as looking outside the country. If you can expand your horizon beyond the same 12-15 schools everyone else is applying to, you can find some real gems, colleges that may suit you and your needs better than many marquee universities.

With this preamble, let’s first take a look at the data I gathered on some of the most competitive colleges in the United States—yes, these are some of the schools everybody has heard of:

Three-Year Yield Data on Über-Competitve schools

Brown2013 (class of 2017): 59.9% ;  2012:ca 57%; 2011 55.8% (None from wait list this year)

Columbia2013 (class of 2017): 61%; 2012: 61%; 2011: 61% (Very consistent to 2008, which was 60%)

Dartmouth–2013 (class of 2017): 48.5%; 2012: 49.5%; 2011: 52%

Harvard2013 (class of 2017): 82%; 2012: 80.2%; 2011: ca 77% (46 from wait list this year)

Princeton2013 (class of 2017): 68.7%; 2012 66.7%; 2011: 56.99% (Princeton Admissions Page stats claim 65% for 2012/2016 class; this appears to be an inaccurate early number)

Stanford2013 (class of 2017): 76.7%; 2012 72.84%; 2011: 70.05%

University of Chicago2013 (class of 2017): 54.98%: 2012: 47%; 2011: 39.88%

UPenn-2013 (class of 2017): 64.25%; 2012: 64.88%; 2011: 62.92%

Yale2013 (class of 2017): Yield not available as of 6/19; 2012: 68.4%; 2011: 65.2%

Compare the yield rates for the elite schools, above, with the overall category averages below, which come from the most recent NACAC (National Association of College and Career Counselors) report, with data up through 2011; these are averages for the entire public/private categories:

Yield Rates for Public and Private 4-Year Colleges


































The story that my data on the super selective schools and the data in this categorical chart tells  is clear:  the most elite schools have been pretty well sheltered from the big drop in yields in recent years, but many others have been, therefore, disproportionately affected.

Why?  Well, demand, largely.  And the demand is driven by certain realities—the famous profs, the famous alums, the data they issue about how smart their applicants are, the data about how few of those applicants they let in, the data about how high their yield rate is of those they did admit . . . oh, wait, it looks like we are discussing, well, marketing, and therefore, Dear Applicant, we are discussing you. Or your perceptions both personally and aggregated with your peers across the country and world.  Take your pick.

As you consider your own perceptions, we should also consider the plight of that demonic realm known as the Admissions Department. You might want to cue some Rolling Stones (Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste) as you think about those dark empires into which all your personal information will disappear, leaving you to wait for months to find out if you are one of the blessed or one of the damned when the envelopes are mailed or the e-mails sent next spring.  But here’s the thing:  they have problems, too.

You are in a race to be admitted; they are in a contest to improve their rankings, or if they are near the top, to maintain their position.   Changes in college rankings mean big money and can make or break campuses and careers.   In some cases,  the suffering of admissions deans may even surpass that of those applying.   A large part of a dean’s problem is hitting the sweet spot where most of those admitted actually attend.  All heck can break loose if 400 extra freshmen admits appear who weren’t expected.

Yes, screwing up on your yield can wreak some serious havoc, with 18-year olds sleeping on cots in hallways, irate parents calling,  news vans prowling campus.   Worse even than that  is a big drop in yield,  when dorm rooms are empty because the admissions people didn’t get enough new faces to show up.  Instead of simply bad PR, which they can deal with, they lose real money and their prestige takes a hit.  That’s a scary, nay a terrifying thing for university administrators, even with the economy appearing to recover. Have a little compassion for those admissions types who are not really devils anyhow.  They are your fellows in the suffering created by our crazy college applications market.

And here is one more thing to consider:  You will do a better job at creating a strategy for college admissions if you better understand the problems facing your admissions officers, because you will also know more about your own  challenges when you apply.  And when you turn to writing your application essays, your audience should be one of your first considerations.

Of course, in the long run, the more of you who do a better job understanding those problems, the (paradoxically) larger problems those same admissions officers will face, at least in the long run.  For one thing, you  will follow my advice and continue to apply to more schools, and you will also continue to demonstrate more interest in more schools, using persistence and discipline to evade their attempts to measure just how committed you are as they, for their part,  try to get more apps, admit fewer people and have a higher yield.

With that, let’s say the game is afoot, and may the best applicants win.  Read my earlier post on how applications are evaluated while you start to plan your moves, and I will have more about all this strategy stuff in later posts. Speaking of which, some of these posts will be protected and you will need to pay me a very small subscription fee for full access to all my posts on my private blog.  Contact me at wordguild@gmail.com for more information.  See you soon.