Parent Month continues! Today I’m actually answering a parent, Jim, whose daughter was rejected from college. He wants to know why.
My daughter graduated with distinguished honor (3.80 or over) (top 10% of the class) from high school in June. The college application process was grueling.
Ain’t it, though? I’m not looking forward to it when my kids reach that age, even though it’s what I do for a living these days.
To begin with my daughter did not do well on the SAT. We sent her to a weekend course and when she took the SAT again, she got the same score of 1600. 650 Math, 490 Writing 460 Reading/English. We decided not to take the test again.
More on this in a second, but my best guess is that the low test scores hurt her pretty bad. And of course I refer to the writing and reading parts — the math score is obviously a good one.
My child wanted to go to Duke University, Vanderbilt University, Wash U in St. Louis, U of Penn, or Emory U.
All very tough, very highly rated private schools, for sure.
In high school she attend Wash U for one summer and earned 7 college credits (GPA 3.81/4.00), and attend Penn State U and earned 11 college credits 1-4-credit Calculus II Honors Course with a 4.00; (GPA 3.59/4.00).
Impressive numbers there, for sure!
In high school, she took all CPA or college prep advanced courses except for English which were all Academic; she took CPA in Biology I, Chem I, II, Geometry , Pre-Calculus, Spanish II, III, IV V.
Also very good. I’m noticing that the chink in her armor seems to be English, though. 🙁 More on that in a second.
She was active in concert, marching and jazz bands, National Honor Society, Sports 2 of them, Student Council, etc. She was a HOBY delegate and attended other leadership development trainings selected by the school administration to attend.
Well, I have to say, she seems to have an outstanding resume of courses and activities. She couldn’t have done much more to impress anyone in that regard.
She was rejected by most of the colleges all but Emory. These are the same colleges who state the SAT’s are not considered to be a major factor in decisions.
Yeah — I think most colleges are saying that nowadays in order to appear less rigid, but they’re still using them to benchmark students. Even if they say they’re not, as long as that SAT score is glaring back at them on the application, I don’t see how they can NOT be taking it into account, at least psychologically.
I would think the grades she received in her college classes and the honors class would far out-weigh the low scores on the SAT. What are your thoughts? Why was she rejected? Am I right about the college courses?
While figuring out what the hell an admissions board was thinking is usually a difficult endeavor, I actually feel relatively certain I know exactly why she was rejected from college. It’s a combination of two things: weak SAT reading/writing scores, and the ultra-competitiveness of each school she selected.
Many colleges would forgive the English-related weakness since she’s so accomplished in math (and also has an incredibly strong resume of activities, etc.). But the schools that won’t forgive any deficiency in a student’s application are the super-competitive, top-flight schools, and every single one you mentioned is in that class. I’m actually kinda surprised she got into Emory, even (which, by the way, congrats!). It’s a helluva school, so celebrate that victory for sure.
I looked up average SAT scores, and both her writing and reading scores are below the national average, and even with the excellence everywhere else, the best-of-the-best schools will reject that most of the time, unless they perceive that she was disadvantaged in some way (minority status, socioeconomic status, etc.).
The college courses surely bolstered her application, but I’m guessing none were in English, her weak area. So they probably just reinforced her excellence in math and didn’t do much to allay any concerns about her English and writing skills.
And that’s another thing that may have gone wrong in the application; her essays may have been weak. I haven’t seen them, of course, but just guessing based on the writing/English scores. I would argue that writing is the most important skill to have, if you had to choose only one. Even if you don’t know anything else about any other topic, as long as you can write well, you can at least bullshit other people into thinking you know more than you actually do. 🙂
Thank you for taking your time to assist me. I have been trying to explain to my daughter why I think she was rejected by most of her favorite colleges. I read your column daily.
Sure, and thank you for writing (and reading!). Email me privately if you want some more feedback on this. I don’t know how she’s taking being rejected from college emotionally (I’m guessing not well, but that’s just a guess), but there are tons of options for her out there, and I’d hate to see a great math student derailed because of this initial discouraging experience. Lord knows we need all the math wizards we can get our hands on here in America.
Please fill us in on some additional information in the comments, if you don’t mind. What are her plans? Is she going to go to Emory, and if not, is she applying elsewhere? I don’t know if finances are an issue for your family, but if she’s able to bring up those English and Reading scores by even 50 points apiece, then she should be able to pull some pretty decent scholarships from either smaller schools or larger state schools. Honestly, from anywhere except the ultra-competitive schools that she likes so much!
And how to do that? Well, if it were me, I would look at tutoring, and specifically, online stuff. You can get hellaciously cheap and high-quality English tutoring online from overseas tutors. And I’m talking about face-to-face (via Webcam) instruction from people with Master’s degrees and/or Ph.Ds.
Check out sites like Guru.com and eLance.com. You’d be surprised at how many extremely good tutors there are out there for little more than U.S. minimum wage. (Of course, you can get these services via domestic tutors as well, but they usually cost a bit more.)
Has she taken the ACT? It’s a good alternative, and it also includes a science portion that I’m guessing your daughter would do pretty well on. A full half of the ACT is math and science, then, vs. 1/3 of the SAT, putting the weighting more in her favor.
— That’s all I’ve got today. What about you all? I’m sure you have plenty of commentary and suggestions about being rejected from college. Let us know in the comments below!