Now that the PSAT is over and results are being published, juniors and underclassmen are probably seeing a flurry of emails in their inboxes. “Come to Harvard, Come to Stanford, Would you be interested in Johns Hopkins?”, the titles say. Proud parents everywhere brag that their student just got an email from Harvard and they are interested in their child! But are they really???
Well that depends. If you aced the test and bubbled in the “right” classes, then maybe. But for most students, it is a fishing expedition. Institutions of higher learning provide wonderful educations, but it is also big business. Not only do schools love to have as many application fees as possible (those $75 fees add up when you have nearly 40,000 applicants, as Harvard did last year) but it also helps in the almighty numbers game.
How do you get ranked number one in in US World Reports or Forbes? Much of the ranking comes from exclusivity – the ratio of number of applicants to number of accepted students. Stanford’s acceptance rate fell below 5% three years ago (the first school to do so) and that has become the new goal. The way to achieve a small ratio is by increasing application rates.
Good schools that you may have never heard about before are sending emails, trying to entice you. Other schools may offer to waive your application fee, perhaps because you are an outstanding candidate, but maybe it is to increase their numbers.
As seniors go sliding into the end of application season, please remember to stick to your plan and apply to the schools in which you are truly interested. Underclassmen, be excited about the emails flooding your inbox, but take everything with a grain of salt.