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Articles / Applying to College / Chances at HYP?
Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 27, 2002

Chances at HYP?

Question: I attend a VERY competetive public school with difficult entrance requirements. As such, my class ranking is not as high as it might be at another school. I am ranked 17th in a class of 93. I am trying to get accepted into Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, and am wondering how this will affect my chances at admission. I scored 1440 on the SAT, and on my SAT IIs I scored 800 Math IC, 720 Writing and 670 Physics. I'm also Students' Union Pres, and finished 2nd at the National Speech and Debate Championships, earning a place to represent Canada in South Africa at the Worlds. Is this good enough for the ivy league, or am I dreaming? All of my courses except one are IB.


Your profile sketch is certainly in the ballpark for accepted students at HYP. However, because there are so many other variables, it's extremely hard to predict who will get in and who won't. This is known as the "elite crapshoot."


I see recs and essays as two of the most critical variable elements in elite admissions because the applicant has a reasonable degree of control over them. Many times, though, a rec writer isn't articulate enough and doesn't provide enough anecdotal evidence to support his or her glowing words of reference.

Of course, if the applicant isn't a strong writer, his or her essays aren't going to help much to break a tie with another equally qualified applicant. The weakest link in the chain for most applicants, in my view, is the essay. Most seniors just don't know how to find their writing voice, let alone use it to elaborate who they are to the admissions committee.

Your class rank will be viewed in relation to the overall competitiveness of your school. HYP's admissions offices will know how tough your school is from its profile and past experience dealing with your school's graduates. Don't be overly concerned with your rank. Your ECs seem very strong.

If you have covered the bases well in the areas of recs and essays, and placed special emphasis on marketing your overall profile, then I believe that you stand just as good a chance as any other equally qualified applicant at HYP. Does this mean that you'll be admitted to any or all of them? No, it doesn't, unfortunately. That's the misery of today's elite admissions arena.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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