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  • Bentham Team

Lessons from this year’s admissions results

It’s fair to say that 2024 was a brutal year for highly qualified students applying to elite colleges. Everyone knows a story of someone with perfect test scores, straight As, and impressive extracurriculars who was flat-out rejected from the college of their choice, or endured the purgatory and dismal odds of being waitlisted.

Banner image - Lessons from this year's admissions results

Students are better qualified than ever

More students than ever are applying to these elite colleges, from all nations and all walks of life, and more students are spectacularly qualified than ever before. Are you struggling to distinguish yourself by earning an IB diploma? Nearly 180,000 students earned one last year. Are you taking a tough schedule of mostly AP courses at a magnet high school? There are over 3000 of those in the U.S., and they are full of students earning close to a 4.0 unweighted.  In 2002, there were 134 perfect ACT scores. In 2023, there were 2,542 perfect scores. There’s certainly good news in these statistics for the nation as a whole - we’re producing better students. If you or your child is one of these students, take pride in that. If you’re trying to get into an elite college, though, these statistics are quite daunting.

Early Decision is extremely important - choose wisely

Because elite college admissions have become so competitive and unpredictable, students are applying to a far greater number of schools. Each elite college wants to protect its yield, the number of students they accept who commit to attending. With students applying to so many schools, yield becomes more uncertain. Hence, elite colleges admit an ever higher percentage of their students through early decision. If a student applies to an elite college through early decision, the student must go to that college if accepted, unless financial considerations prevent them. Elite colleges typically accept from 20% to 45% of their incoming class through early decision. Given the much smaller pool of ED applicants, and the higher percentage of applicants admitted, a student typically has a significantly higher chance of getting accepted early decision.

But be strategic - many families make the mistake of using their Early Decision application as their “best chance” to get into a big reach school. Early Decision is a student’s best chance to get into any school. Even schools a student considers to be target schools are probably going to get far more qualified applicants than they can admit, so use your early decision option to apply to a school where you are truly competitive.

The importance of the essay

With so many students boasting equally impressive grades, scores, and extracurriculars, the essay is something that can really set an applicant apart. Starting early, writing multiple drafts, and being receptive to critical feedback are all crucial to writing a memorable essay among thousands of essays.

No such thing as reach/target/safety - you need a strategy for every school

The last lesson from the 2024 admissions cycle is that target schools and even safety schools are turning students away. Each school wants to be sure that you are a good fit, and that your interest in the school is intense and genuine. The applicant needs a thoughtful strategy for every school, and to allot enough time to write strong supplemental essays

It helps to have the support of experts

Needless to say, crafting a strategy for every school, writing memorable essays, and finding special activities that set you apart from other equally qualified applicants, is a daunting task. If you want expert help with all of this, contact Bentham Admissions.


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