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Articles / Applying to College / Other “Good Fit” Options for Disappointed Stanford Applicant

Other “Good Fit” Options for Disappointed Stanford Applicant

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Dec. 11, 2018
Other “Good Fit” Options for Disappointed Stanford Applicant
I got my Stanford decision and I did not get in. I really felt like this school was a great fit for me and so I'm really thrown off. What's bothering me the most is that some kids with WAY lower stats than me, fewer extracurriculars and other factors DID get in. I took the weekend to just absorb it and now I'm putting together a new list of schools to apply to. But since I really felt like Stanford was a fit and obviously they didn't feel the same way, I'm not sure how to figure out where a good fit is and where one isn't. Based on stats alone, I should be getting in everywhere. Can you help me figure out the "fit" part?

My condolences to you on your Stanford decision. This is a very trying time of year for the many accomplished students who are turned away from top-choice colleges for no apparent reason. But, frankly, "The Dean" thinks that your surprise is a little naive. Stanford is well known for its minuscule acceptance rates, and only its admission officers understand why one applicant is denied while another — perhaps with lower test scores or an underwhelming resume — is admitted. Sometimes, in fact, even the admission folks are perplexed by the outcomes! One official may lobby hard for a candidate but that candidate is rejected anyway. So it's possible that your regional admissions rep — or someone else behind those closed committee doors — was rooting for you but didn't prevail. Students who apply to Stanford — or to any of the other most sought-after institutions such as the Ivies and MIT — should do so with a thick skin and must approach the process as they might when purchasing a lottery ticket ... i.e., with a mindset that proclaims, "I've tossed my hat into the ring, but I'll need a lot of luck to win."

So now, what's next for you and what's a good fit? First think about why you believe that Stanford was the perfect match. Was it a specific major or academic program that's not widely offered? A professor whose research meshes with your own? Do you do your best work among other super-smart kids? Did you like the location and the weather? Are you seeking a place with rah-rah sports teams to support?

Try to list the reasons that you chose Stanford over its closest competitors and then look for other schools that share those traits. Be sure to include not only the most selective institutions, but also others that are sure to admit you. It's not uncommon for students who like Stanford and its mild weather, bustling campus and moderate size to also feel at home at places like Rice, Emory, Tulane, and U. of Miami, where merit aid may be available as well. If the weather isn't a big concern, add Northwestern to the list. If cheering on a Division I sports team isn't a priority, also consider Tufts, Washington University in St. Louis and Johns Hopkins. Note, however, that these schools range from Most Selective to Very Selective and shouldn't be viewed as "Safe" for anyone. Some, in fact, are known for denying well-qualified applicants who haven't shown sufficient interest, even when their grades and test scores surpass median ranges.

Students who were once also stuck on Stanford often find happiness at the "public Ivies" such as Michigan, UNC Chapel Hill, Georgia Tech, UVA and the College of William and Mary -- and also at well-regarded Calif. schools such as USC, UCLA, Berkeley and UC San Diego. Even the large, less-selective public universities have much to offer stellar students due to their long list of majors and atypical programs and the chance to be a star from the get-go.

I do sympathize with the sadness and frustration that you're feeling right now, and I hope it helps when I tell you that it probably won't take long for this pain to seem like ancient history. If you are good enough to be a contender at Stanford (and it certainly sounds as if you are), many other colleges and universities will welcome you. And, even with deadlines looming, you should be able to find new options that excite you.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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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