So, you got your results back. For some of you, they are far less than ideal.
Before you beat yourself up and retreat to your computer to wallow in a black hole of anguish and despair, do yourself a favour and read this bite-sized interview with one of Crimson's admissions strategist, Nicole Teoh. Nicole has helped many Crimson students (including NSFs) get into their dream schools, after having been rejected when they applied on their own. In it, she covers where students usually go wrong in the admissions game, and how the next few months can be instrumental in making a comeback.
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Question: In your experience, why don't students get in to the schools they've applied to or want admission to the most?
Nicole: Usually, unsuccessful applications are either the result of a lack of strategy, or a strategic error. In the former, students weren't aware of what it would take to get in, and in the latter, they probably misidentified their reach, target and safety schools. Especially when it comes to applying to Ivy League and Oxbridge schools (infamous for their low acceptance rates and which were lower than usual this year), a strategic approach is crucial.
Let me give you an example - one of my students had the required grades and pretty interesting extracurriculars on top of academic awards, and still got rejected from all the Ivy League schools she applied to. To put things in context, almost half the students in top schools have straight As for A-Levels and a handful have Distinctions for their Higher-3 papers as well. So having good grades doesn't guarantee or make you a shoo-in for a lot of these Top 30 US schools.
Question: So why do students misidentify their reach, target and safety schools?
Nicole: There are two reasons, mainly: 1) students aren't aware of how they compare to other applicants globally, and/or 2) they haven't done enough research to understand if they're a good fit for these programmes. Because it's a part of my job, I have access to that information, but I do know that this isn't easy to gather. Before re-applying to top tier schools, students should try and get help in evaluating where they stand as a candidate, globally.
Question: What's a little-known tip that may help students looking to re-apply in the next round?
Nicole: Hmmm. For students applying to the US, I'd say consider applying early. Early applications have historically better admissions rates - which is logical, because you're entering a smaller (but just as competitive!) applicant pool. This is basically the admissions equivalent of gaming the system. For example, in the 2017 - 2018 admission cycle, Harvard admitted 21% of their applicants in the early action round and less than 5% in the regular decision round. Just make sure you know what you're getting into - early decision is legally binding, meaning you'll have to go to the school you got into, whereas early action isn't.
Question: Apart from "gaming the system, how can students increase their chances of getting into the schools they want in the next application round?
Nicole: Generally, students should work on their weaknesses before the next round of applications to give themselves the best chance. So if you didn't do well in your A levels/IBs,find other ways that you can demonstrate academic rigour. For the US, this could include re-taking or taking the SAT and/or the ACT. Also, if you're applying to the US, always remember that your candidacy is a package deal: you'll need to show that you've participated in or led meaningful extracurricular activities, in addition to getting good grades.
Question: In general, what's your advice to students that have been rejected this round?
Nicole: Don't give up hope! Once students fix their application strategy and work their weaknesses, most of them get into the schools they want. Just remember there's nothing wrong with getting help through a fresh pair of eyes, be it a trusted friend, a school counsellor, or admissions professionals like Crimson. Best of luck!
A bit more about Nicole:
Nicole is based in Singapore and provides strategy for Crimson's students applying to both US and UK universities. She was accepted at both Duke University and the University of Oxford, and has helped students gain admission to Top 20 Universities in the US as well as Russell Group universities. She read History and Politics at the University of Oxford and graduated with First Class Honours. During her time in Oxford, she was involved in OxFizz, a student organisation providing Oxbridge interview preparation for students as well as the Access Office at her college aimed at helping students from under-represented schools across England gain entry into Oxford.