2 years ago
Admissions Advice

I want advice on how to improve my chances to get into either Harvard, MIT or Amherst. Can someone give me advice?

So..... I'm a Brazilian student, and my country's education system does not offer AP or IB classes. I've been doing SAT and ACT mock tests online to practice until I pay the 98 dollars to take them, and I have a MET English proficiency exam's predicted grades (even though Unis require IELTS/TOEFL). I learned of the opportunity to go abroad only earlier this year. So.... Here's my info:

- My country's education evaluates us in a scale of 0 to 10. The grades on my report card range from 8.5 to 10, with more 10s and 9s than 8.5s. Never below that. Occasionaly I have a 5 on a test, so on other tests I get 10s to make up for them. So, my GPA ranges from 3.0 to 4.0. My best grades are Math, Portuguese, English, Literature and Chemistry. I'm in my sophomore year, so not that many time to increase my odds. Here's my info:

- My extracurriculars are strong. I am my school's Choir lead male voice, my school's orchestra lead ´Bari Sax player, I am part of a volunteer group (freemasonry sponsored) that does beneficiary work, such as planting trees, taking garbage off streets, giving blood and food to my town's food bank. I am also part of my school's theater group. I also won a regional volleyball competition as a mid blocker with my town's sub-17 team. I have a A1 in German certificate by the Goethe Institute. My MET predicted scores are C1 on both parts.

The platform calculated my chances of getting into Harvard or MIT on 3% with no SAT/ACT scores, and Amherst is an 8% chance without standirized tests scores. If a stranger would be so kind to answer this question and tell me how I can increase my chances of getting in (also, a few things to be careful when taking the SATs), maybe to a 15% on each. I don't know how competitive these universities' music undergrad programs are, but I guess being international and needing a full-ride scholarship would bring my chances down I guess.

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1 answer

2 years ago[edited]

My advice may be less positive but at least it is honest so don't take it personally. Over the last 2 years, acceptance rates to top American colleges have gone down because more students around the world are applying to the same 50 schools. During our global pandemic more and more wealthy parents have wanted their kids to attend a top college because they would be in somewhat of a safety bubble because they had both the budget and dedicated resources to protect their students. Also, the pandemic highlighted everyone's mortality so I think more applicants felt it was their time to take a chance and apply to these schools because 75-80% were now test optional. Exacerbating this demand problem was that many T50 were overbooked from high yield rates (more students accepting their offers) and students who opted to gap years in record numbers wanting to start their college career. This is why this year was even more competitive not only at top Ivys and Elites but at colleges like NEastern, Boston University and top liberal arts colleges. I'm sharing this because over the next few cycles things will continue to get worse for students all over the world.

The colleges you are hoping to attend have only 3-4% acceptance rates and Amherst is 7%. Since all these schools in this level of prestige are self-selecting, that means that many applicants fully aware of the stats and requirements that are typical of an admitted student. It would be safe to say that over 50% of the students that apply to these schools have nearly perfect grades, test scores, tier 1 and 2 ECs, top honors and awards and have some "spike" activity whether that is being an exceptional writer, activist, artist, musician, dancer, singer or athlete. When Harvard's acceptance rate is 3.19% it doesn't mean that it's a lottery ticket 🎫 and everyone as a 3.19% chance to get in. What it means is that out 61220 qualified applicants, some had huge advantages over other before the selection process started and others, virtually no possibility to get in. If your parent(s) went to Harvard College, or if you are recruited Varsity Athlete ready to play at the NCAA Division 1 level on a Harvard sports team, or if your parents work at Harvard or if you are just incredibly rich and have donated tens of millions of dollars to Harvard, you are considered an ALDC applicant (the acronym stands for those 4 catagories (athlete, legacy, development, child (of faculty)).

Harvard, like many Ivys and Elites and Top Liberal Arts colleges use a "score card" system for evaluating applications. In Harvard's case, I believe there are 230 criteria and counting and each applicant is scored from 1 to 6 , with 1 being nearly impossible to get and most admits falling in the 2+,2, 2- range. The main categories are 1.Academic Rating, 2. ECs, Community Service, Employment, Family Rating 3. Personal Rating, 4. Teacher Recommendations, 5.Athletic Rating 6. Interview Rating. The College Vine Rating covers less than 20% of the inputs that some of these top college use so it's far more accurate for the majority of colleges with a larger factor of error for say T20 colleges. So 3%, might be 0% or 6% at these schools in actuality because there are just so many factors that the application readers take into consideration.

International Students are most certainly welcome to apply to all American colleges but keep in mind that they are even more difficult to get into as an Int'l applicant than a US citizen. MIT used to publish their domestic admit rates versus int'l admit rates and the difference is huge. Last year 9165 Int'l students applied to MIT and only 123 were accepted which is about 1.3% not the 4.1% published rate. So it's 3 times harder to get into MIT as an International Student. So you have to be the rare exceptional top student in your City or Country these days to get into MIT. I don't have the stats for Harvard or Amherst but it is harder to get into than the published rate. One major factor is that the educational systems in other countries is often less rigorous and the same level of coursework is not available. So it's incumbent on the applicants to take additional coursework that brings them up to same level of American students applying to these schools if they realistically stand a fair chance in competing.

Wealthy Int'l students do have a big advantage regardless of whether they live in Japan, S.Korea, Switzerland or France because they can attend rigorous private schools that offer either APs or IBs. And they also have many opportunities to do the same types of ECs and Sports and their American counterparts like Model UN, debate team, or play Lacrosse, Water Polo, Sailing, Fencing or Skiing.

One way to boost your chances of getting into top US colleges when you do not come from a wealthy background is to consider applying for a scholarship to attend a private boarding school for the rest of your High School or (if are in 11th grade, consider applying as a PG Post Graduate student after you complete HS). These schools give applicants a huge advantage because they are excellent schools that prep students to learn in Socratic small classroom settings, have exposure to "tutorials" or one on one argument style learning, give exposure to college rigor because their course are either equal or harder than APs or IBs, and prepare students for living away from home on college-like campus where they have to excel at time management and get used to being on a very structured daily routine from eating meals in dining halls, participating in community service and doing all their ECs and clubs in addition to lesson plans and homework. There are many examples of kids all over the world who graduate from HS in their country, and then either go to a college preparatory academy for 1 year or attend a boarding school in another country prior to applying to top America colleges. There is NO guaranty that successfully graduating from boarding schools will get you into your top colleges but they will better prepare you regardless of where you get into and choose to attend.

I'm revealing this alternative solution because most International students do not know this path is available. Top boarding schools like Phillips Exeter, Phillips Andover, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, Choate Rosemary Hall, Deerfield Academy and St. Pauls School all have excellent financial aid, and like Ivy's, Elites and Top Liberal Arts colleges, if you are smart but come from a low income background, they will fully fund you to attend their school. While they are not as competitive as the Ivy's themselves, admit rates tend to be in the 10-15% range versus 3-7% for Ivys. I know for a fact that all top boarding schools have remarkable Music programs and their student perform at a very high level. If you watch youtube, you can see that students from Deerfield for example do live orchestral performances at venues like Carnegie Hall or put on their own live performances of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker with a full orchestra for the holidays. It's because they all are highly endowed schools with world class facilities and instructors.

Beside the standard answer 99% of respondents will say like "get better grades, get high test scores, show leadership in your ECs, write amazing essays and curate some unique narrative for you", I'm not sure those will really boost your CV chance from 3% to 15% as you indicated. You really want your CV chances to be in the 30-40% range if you are dead set on getting into one of these schools.

Good luck in your future endeavors.

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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