Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The 6% Solution

94% of Columbia applicants got this message today

All those rejection letters from elite colleges were sent out in the mail yesterday, and a lot of applicants already have the bad news.

I say "bad news" because at the elite colleges the admission rates are so minuscule that even the most qualified students have a better chance of finding a golden ticket from Willy Wonka.

And now, Columbia is leading that list of the impossible with a 6.1% acceptance rate, second lowest to only Harvard.

Now, I have two different takes on this. One is for non-athlete applicants and the other is for our varsity recruits.

For non-athletes, I find this acceptance rate news to be ridiculous. Yes, I am happy that Columbia is so popular a college choice for elite students that 36,250 of them applied to our Alma Mater. But since just about no one who isn't a really top student bothers to pay the fees and fill out the entire common application to Ivy schools, we can honestly say that even the best students out there have basically no realistic chance of getting into Columbia.

Thus, parents who put pressure on their kids to get into Columbia or any Ivy these days should be ashamed of themselves. It's just impossible. Sure, it's worth trying, but so is buying a lotto ticket from time to time, (but not too many).

The story is completely different for top student athletes currently being recruited by Columbia. If you are one of those athletes or if you are the parent or adviser to one of those athletes, these new admit rates MUST make you sit up, take notice, and possibly reconsider any thoughts you might be entertaining about going to another non-Ivy school.

Now as much as I hate to see us lose a recruiting battle to another Ivy, I certainly don't think we lose those battles because the athlete in question has a bad set of priorities. Clearly, that athlete is still putting academics on the top of his list.

But the losing recruiting battles that always stick in my craw are the ones where we lose a good player to his dreams of playing at a "big time" college football program regardless of the academic reputation of that school... especially when it's for a "walk on" slot instead of any scholarship.

Sure, there are some cases where those walk-ons do get real playing time or even a scholarship by the time they graduate. But not many.

And now I just want to shake those kids really hard and yell; "You're turning down admission to an Ivy League school with a 6% acceptance rate where you're likely to be a star on the field and make the connections to set you up for life just so you can sit on the bench at Mississippi State?!?! Are you NUTS?!?"

For many of these recruits who spurn us and the other Ivy offers the answer is, "yes, they are nuts."

So, let me make the case again with my three key points:

1) Columbia is now the second hardest school to get into in the entire world. People with perfect grades and SAT/ACT scores are getting rejected left and right. Getting admitted to Columbia is actually a bigger reward than you could possibly hope for in return for all your hard work in football. Don't walk away so easily from the chance to achieve something more than 30,000 of the best high school seniors in America and their parents are literally crying about not getting today.

2) Your chances of being a star in this league who gets the attention of pro scouts is better than your chances of playing at all at, (fill in the blank), U.  Even "Rudy" only got on the field for two plays at Notre Dame.

3) Even the best players at, (fill in the blank), U. will never even get a chance to play pro football. So, whatever satisfaction you get from the long shot you have of ever playing at that school will end right there. Now, compare that to the lifelong benefits you'll enjoy from having a Columbia degree.

And there's one more part of my pitch that I would make to a recruit who still decides to walk away:

4) I hope things work out for you at, (fill in the blank), U. But if they don't, or you decide your priorities have changed, Columbia cannot recruit you to transfer but you can reach out to Columbia on your own. So even if you're climbing the depth chart, but finding that maintaining your 3.78 GPA is more important to you than it used to be... well, here's our email/phone number and it'll be good two years from now too.

Speaking of transfers, I hope the news that Head Coach Al Bagnoli has come to Columbia is reaching all of the big target recruits he failed to reel in at Penn who went to big time football schools for walk on status. Because we have so many open slots, Columbia is in a unique position to find a place for anyone like that who makes the first move and expresses an interest in transferring here. The other Ivy schools have their hands tied at this late date.

So high school football players, take a really hard look at these admission rates and realize that you have a unique path through an impossible minefield that almost none of your fellow students has a chance to cross.

Don't ignore it.


Anonymous said...

I've never quite understood the rejection model. Who are upper echelon schools admitting if they are rejecting the top of the top students? Whoever has the better extracurriculars? The ability to pay? Is this just a matter of a world population explosion and so many students are top of the top the margin for acceptance-rejection is razor thin?

As for the athletic equation, it all comes down to comfort level. Some kids take big risks and feel that is what they need to do. In the end, a kid has to believe in what they are doing. I like what is mentioned in the post about transfers. Everyone will have second thoughts so why not popularize the option. Tyler Varga made the absolute wrong decision to stay at home in Canada as a frosh but ended up choosing Yale as a sophomore transfer. there are plenty more like him out there.

oldlion said...

Jake, it is even more difficult for those students who do not apply early. we accept about 40% of the class through early admission. Add on top of the recruited athletes, legacies, diversity objectives. So if you didn't apply early and do not fall within one of the preferred categories, then Admissions tries to decide if are serious about Columbia as opposed to a peer school. My guess is that regular admissions for applicants who do not fall within a special category are probably admitted at around the 4% range, if not lower.

Anonymous said...

5% acceptance rate and more apps at Stanford.

Big Dawg said...

I have, in the past, interviewed for ARC. What I realized in speaking with so many CU applicants is the amazing degree of grade and extra-curricular inflation has become standard, so that these kids can qualify for a good school.

Everyone has a "4.3" GPA, due to AP classes. They take expensive private SAT training to improve those. They make a business out of participating in XC activities.
To me, most of them seem to resemble Japanese or Korean students who stake their lives on getting into the right college.

Truthfully, I wonder what happened to the kids who were damn smart, got great grades and test scores, participated in outside activities, and did all of this because of the pure fun of it. Instead we have organized, focused scholastic militants, most of whom will wind up as quants or doctors. What happened to the kids who did well and enjoyed their life and had fun?