Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The 6 Admission Buckets

Earlier this week I had a couple 8th grade parents in my office to get a "jump start" on the college admission process.

At one point, one of the parents said matter-of-factly, "So kids today apply a lot like we did back in the day, where we apply around January 1st."

I smiled wryly.

This poor couple was about to have their heads sent spinning.

"Actually," I responded, "there are now like 6 different admission buckets."

There is the Rolling Admission Bucket. 

This bucket is a big and wide bucket.

It stretches from August to May.

Often public universities with automatic admission criteria use this bucket.

And often the application is found on their admission web site.

OU, for example, uses this bucket.

Then there are the "Early" Buckets.

There are typically 3 Early Buckets.

There is the Early Action Bucket (unrestricted).

Students can apply EA to more than 1 school.

Deadlines are often around Nov. 1-15.

There is no lid in EA.  That means that students can decide to wait until May to matriculate if they are admitted in December.
 (These schools are "holistic" in that they assess a student's admissibility based on test scores, gpa, strength of academic program, along with resume, teacher recommendation, counselor recommendation, student essays, and sometimes, interviews.)

The Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) Bucket has a bit of nuance.  Students apply same time period.  There is "no lid" (have until May to decide), but they can only apply to 1 school, the exception being public universities that aren't highly selective.

There are 5 SCEA schools:  Stanford,  Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Boston College.

Watch out for those SCEA schools.  They can be a bear trap.

Most of those schools are reading the applications through a "bifocal" lens in which they are "trolling" for applications who are both a "holistic match" (profile + in terms of test scores, GPA, strength of curriculum) and "institutional match" (diversity, legacy, athlete, 1st gen, international, engineering).

When 90% of the applicant pool is admissible (read this interview with Dartmouth dean of admission, Maria Laskaris), and you only admit 21% in early round, and around 6-10% in regular - who do you pick?  

Unless you have a "hook" or an institutional credential that the school really wants, it is best not to apply SCEA.

Finally there is the Early Decision Bucket(s).

This is a bucket that comes with a lid.  To apply ED 1 means that you are 100% committed to this one school.  If admitted, you matriculate.  The odds are definitely better in ED 1 and ED 2.  There is a smaller volume and higher admit rate.

ED 2 is a new bucket.  There are a handful of schools that have added a January ED bucket (Vanderbilt, Emory, NYU, Davidson, Swathmore are a few with this bucket).  This bucket tends to have about the same application volume as the first ED bucket, and the acceptance rate is around the same.

Vanderbilt, for example, admits roughly 25% in both ED 1 and ED 2.

You can see from the Penn buckets the big difference between applying ED versus Regular.

Note how Penn filled up nearly half their class in ED.

There are about 6 times fewer apps in ED with a 15% higher admit rate.

And remember:  when you apply ED, you are ONLY applying against students applying to Penn.  Come regular admission, you are applying against students who are applying to most of the Ivies.  

The Regular Admission Bucket.

To put your application in the Regular Admission bucket is to invite the element of  uncertainty into the process.

There is simply no way to predict outcomes in regular admission, not even for the top students.  Just look again at the slide of Penn's admissions in early versus regular.

In regular you have almost 6 times the volume;  they take 15% less;  and only have 57% of the chairs to fill in.

That's why it tends to be "Scorcese bloody red" in regular admissions at highly selective schools.

The key then is to think not just in terms of where your student will apply, but when.

To view 2012 Admission Results click here.