A Love Call from Harvard? Not Quite.


You come home from school, and your mom, bright-eyed, rushes into your room with excitement. In her hands? A thick envelope from Harvard. On the envelope? Your name. “For me? From Harvard? But…why?” You rip open the envelope, and the letter with the glorious Harvard seal reads, “Dear Johnny, we are pleased to…” You read on, heart beating out of your chest. It’s only when you finally reach the bottom of the letter you come back to earth: “You will make a wonderful addition to our Class of 2019, and we invite you to check out our admissions page and apply this fall!”

Have you ever wondered how colleges know you and can send you these emails and pamphlets? If you are a junior, chances are, your inbox is already flooded with emails from colleges asking you to apply. Colleges buy a list of names from SAT and ACT of students whose scores fall into a certain score range. They will then send you those shiny magazines with attractive students on the manicured verdant lawns to lure you into applying. Students who only score about a 2000 on their SATs have received these materials from Princeton and Columbia. These colleges all say that you will make a great addition to their community full of bright students and award-winning faculty. “Come on,” I say to my students. “You don’t really believe that, do you?”

I know I sound harsh whenever I give my students a reality check like this. But, I make it a point to give my students a realistic perspective on what chances they are up against when it comes to college admissions. Too many students want to apply to Harvard “just in case” or just because their parents want them to apply because they just “might get lucky”. The reality is this: I have never seen anyone in my last 10 plus years of college admissions counseling get into Harvard with an SAT score of 2000. Most students who get admitted to Harvard or any of the Ivy Leagues usually have SAT scores of 2300 or above and ACT scores of 35 or above. I have seen nationally ranked student athletes get recruited by Harvard with a slightly lower score, but they were still in the 2200 range for the SAT.

So, it’s time to get realistic and hit those SAT books, rather than drooling over those glossy Harvard pamphlets!

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