ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled
Saved to My Favorites. View My Favorites
Articles / Applying to College / Will Older Siblings' College Choices Hurt My Own Admission Verdicts?

Will Older Siblings' College Choices Hurt My Own Admission Verdicts?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Oct. 27, 2015

Question: Hello!  I’m the youngest of three kids. My older siblings were excellent students. They were each admitted to some very selective schools. Obviously, they could each only attend one school, so they had to decline offers from quite a few schools. I will be applying to a few of the schools that my sibs declined.  In fact, those schools are my top choice schools.

 Will admissions counselors look down on my application because my sibs were accepted and decided not to attend?  This is keeping me awake at night.Thanks for your help!

As you’ve undoubtedly realized by now, being the baby of the family is a mixed bag. You probably scored better stuff (technology, bikes, etc.) at an earlier age than your older siblings did because it took your parents some trial-and-error to figure out what was cool … and perhaps because your big brother, who got his first TracFone when he was 15, wangled you an iPhone at 11.  But, on the other hand, you may have headed off to kindergarten with a Care Bears backpack, handed down through your family for a decade, while the other kids showed up with Sponge Bob.

Yet, whatever the pros and cons of your basement spot in the birth order, you don’t have to worry that it will screw up your college admissions process. Many of your target colleges will not even realize that an older brother or sister turned down an offer of admission. Maybe you have heard that college officials check records of acceptances and enrollments from a particular high school over the past five or ten years and this concerns you.  Yes, in fact, this is a common practice. These records  may contain applicant names but usually include only statistics … much like you may have seen on Naviance … noting the GPA, rank, and test scores of applicants from that high school and their admission outcomes.

So, if …

-the college files do list past applicants by name

-you attend the same high school that your older siblings went to

 -your surname isn’t a very common one

 -one of your siblings applied rather recently and was especially outstanding or otherwise memorable …

then it’s possible that a savvy admission officer–especially a regional rep who has overseen applicants from your high school for several years—might put two-and-two together and connect you to the Big One that Got Away.  Even so, this isn’t going to affect you.

Be sure to “demonstrate interest” at all of your target colleges … whether a sibling applied or not. Visit campus when possible; attend programs close to home; exchange emails with admission staff, professors, and coaches, when appropriate.

But … if you’re still worried that a decision made by an older brother or sister might come back to haunt you next year at your top-choice colleges, you can send a personal note to the staff member who oversees applicants from your high school. The note could say something like this:

I first discovered [name of college] four years ago, when my parents dragged me on a college tour with my older sister. I fell in love with the campus right away and remember all the friendly students who didn’t ignore me, even though I was just 13. When my sister was admitted and then chose to enroll elsewhere, I thought she was nuts. So now that I am submitting my own applications, I hope that –if you even remember her at all—you don’t think that I plan to follow in her footsteps. I’m really excited about [name of college], not just due to what I experienced years ago but also especially because of [reason or reasons you love the school]. I look forward to meeting you [when I visit campus again; if you visit my high school; at a local college fair, etc.]

Although you really don’t need to write a note like this to vanquish the ghosts of siblings past, it certainly can’t hurt, and it might help you to establish a connection with your regional rep. It could also allow you to sleep better at night and to refrain from blaming your brother or sister if you don’t get the college news you want … even if you still haven’t quite forgiven them for that Care Bear knapsack!


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.

More on Applying to College

See all
typing at computer- karolina-grabowska-6958506-resized

Authentic Voice in College Essays

That’s why you want to use your authentic voice when writing any college essay.

So what’s the problem? A student has shared an ess…


College Interview Prep Tips: Brainstorm, Research, Analyze, Generalize

I recently visited Washington University in Saint Louis and was lucky enough to set up an interview. By speaking with peers of mi…

campus gates

Academic Index Scores: Why They Matter and How They're Calculated

Note: Click here for 10 Summer Programs You Can Still Apply For or keep reading to learn more about academic index scores.

8 Podcasts for Students Going Through the Admissions Process

7 Podcasts for Students Going Through the Admissions Process

Podcasts can offer a wealth of information to busy students, particularly when it comes to the college admissions process. We…


Avoid College Application Regrets: Tips For Getting It Right the First Time

Decision Day occurs each year on May 1st and is the deadline for students to inform the college of their choice of their intent t…

Get a student loan that goes beyond tuition.

Ascent offers cosigned and non-cosigned student loans with exclusive benefits that set students up for success.

Explore Now!
Find Your Scholarship

Want to find money for school that doesn’t need to be paid back? Access insights and advice on how to search and apply for scholarships!

Search for Scholarship