Who Gets into College and Why

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: September 16, 2013

Jason and I just attended a great presentation by Daniel Grayson, Associate Director of Admissions at Tufts University, and want to share several insightful kernels of information with you, in no particular order:

  • It's not always the students with the top academic records and scores who get in.
  • Extracurricular engagement and personal qualities (how this applicant might add to the university community) play a tremendous role in the admission decision.
  • When you can’t figure out why a particular student got in and another didn’t, blame it on institutional priorities – which can change everything! Institutional priorities are what you have no control over, the stuff you don’t see, the really dirty stuff in admissions. Perhaps the six tenured Russian professors are screaming that they need more Russian majors, or the top quarterback and most of the offensive line just graduated, or the orchestra needs strings, or the mayor is upset that not enough students from the local high school got in. Or maybe your family has just donated $5 million towards the financial aid budget of the university. Well, if these kids can do the work, they’re in!
  • Tufts University does not recalculate GPA; rather, they use a 1-7 index to rate your academic record, but the presenter would not elaborate on what it took to be a 4.5 or 5 or any other number.
  • Applying as an “undecided” major doesn't tell Admissions very much about you, and some admission officers will hold it against you if you don't specify academic areas which you are interested in pursuing.
  • Tufts likes to admit students who linger after class, not necessarily students who get more A’s!
  • It does not matter whether you submit the SAT with two Subject Tests or just the ACT alone. Each reflects five distinct scores to be used by Admissions.
  • Tufts learns much more about you from its supplemental essay questions than from the common app essay questions, which they really don't like very much. In fact, our presenter indicated that 70% of the students give him reason to admit them from the Supplement, rather than from the Common App personal statement!
  • It does not matter how many students from your school apply to Tufts, as you're not compared to each other. You are each considered individually in the context of your school.
  • Last year, 70% of all Tufts applicants were evaluated as outstanding or qualified (competitive) based on their academic records. But the freshman class allowed only 19% of them to be offered admission.
  • Being a legacy gives you a bump only if you are considered outstanding or qualified.
  • About 8% of the applicants don't make it past the first read because they are academically unqualified to do the work at Tufts. They are euphemistically referred to as "below average."
  • It does not matter if you apply ED 1 or ED 2; your chances for admission are the same in both pools
  • Tufts is no longer need blind. The last 10% of the admitted students are evaluated with an eye toward financial need.
  • The admit rate for the most competitive applicants is only 49.2%. These are the kids who have an SAT score of 2350+ and almost straight A’s.
  • The admit rate for the lowest category of qualified applicants is 3%.
  • It take a majority of the committee plus 1 to admit a student, and since there are 7 members of the committee, 5 votes are needed to admit a student. Tufts actually has 25 admission staff members, but only 7 are on the committee, including our presenter. He said there are many students he loves and fights for that simply don’t get in; It doesn’t mean they like you less or that it reflects your self-worth
  • Your academics get you into the committee room where you’ll be part of the conversation and ultimate committee debate; whether or not you actually get in is based on a set of things separate from academics!
  • There’s plenty of room to admit more students during ED, but you still have to make it to the final committee.
  • Your 3-page resume will get distilled into a list not much longer than a Tweet! Something like this: Senior class president, SADD member, editor-in-chief of foreign language mag, summer job with mom’s real estate company or Starbucks barista 24 hr/wk for 2 years, “Art for the Heart” founder, summer internships at hospitals
  • Interviewers like everybody! A Tufts alumni interview is optional – and optional means optional (not sure I believe that one!).
  • The USA is the only country in the world where colleges ask students Tell us who you are and why. In other countries students are admitted to college based exclusively on their academic achievement.
  • American colleges try to provide the most educational opportunities for their graduates. Colleges in other countries try to graduate the most students.

Topics: College Admission College Application


Like this post? Share it!

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all

Ready to move to the front of the class?

Let's discuss an educational plan that will get you or your student on a path to success.