— Comparison vs. Absolute Value —
Fundamental Mistake #7: Forgetting That Admissions are About COMPARISON, and NOT about Absolute Value
When you apply to college, you’re not applying in a vacuum. You are competing against every other applicant.
Imagine applying for a job with 5 DWIs on your record. You might think, “Hey, you know what, I might have been drunk behind the wheel a couple of times, but I mean, who cares – I’m still a pretty great applicant.” Just one thing you’re forgetting:
There are going to be plenty of other applicants WITHOUT DWI CHARGES who you need to compete against. Someone even 90% as good as you without a DWI will be a heck of a lot more appealing than you ever will be.
The same goes for college admissions. Just replace “DWI” with “bad grades” or “bad test scores” and you get the picture.
“Oh, Johnny might have pretty bad SAT scores, but he’s such a good kid – once they take a look, they’ll let him in anyway.”
Remember: This isn’t about you. It’s about you vs. everyone else.
Think of applications as a “scaled test” – if you have weak applications, but so does everyone else, you’ll be okay. However, if you’re competing against a strong pool of applicants, and you have a glaring weakness, you’re cooked.
To avoid this mistake in full, you need to know just one thing:
Comparison is strongest in terms of grades and test scores. If you don’t have strong scores and grades, you’ll be comparing yourself to people who do – and your application will end up in the trash basket before it ever gets read.
If you have bad scores or bad grades, don’t expect to get in unless you have an all-powerful liaison (and even then, he or she might have a lot of trouble).
There’s nothing more to it than that. Remember: colleges review grades and scores BEFORE they review entire applications. If you don’t have good grades and scores, colleges will NEVER EVEN LOOK AT YOUR APPLICATION in the first place.
Sure, you might be awesome – but if your grades or test scores don’t stack up to the competition, you either need a liaison, or you need to apply somewhere else.
Rather than panic about this, just improve your grades and test scores!!!
These are the “meat and potatoes” of your application. You need to be a specialist to get into any competitive college, but most competitive colleges won’t find out that you’re a specialist unless your grades and scores stack up to the competition.
The admissions process looks like this:
1. College admissions officers look at your GRADES and TEST SCORES. If they meet their minimum standards, they open your application. If they don’t, your application gets tossed in the trash.
2. Once your application is opened, officers then decide whether or not you should get in based on your specialty.
There’s simply no avoiding it: if you don’t have the scores and the grades, you’re in bad, bad shape.
Again, this comes down to the issue of selection. I actually heard one parent say:
“My child has a B- average and a 1700 on his SAT – we’re going to apply to Brown as a “reach school” and Vanderbilt as a “safety.”
Unfortunately for that child (who I never had the opportunity to tutor, because I offended his mother with honest advice), Brown wasn’t a “reach” – reaching implies that you have a chance of touching it. Brown was an impossibility. So was Vanderbilt.