Is CollegeVine overestimating my admissions chances?Answered
I'm a rising senior, and I don't see myself as a competitive applicant. Even though schools like Smith and NYU are labeled as "Target", Barnard and Grinnell are considered safe schools, and I don't understand the math behind those outcomes. As for my background, I have a 3.67 GPA (unweighted), and although my school doesn't offer Honors or APs, I take advanced courses whenever possible. I'm planning on becoming a CompSci major, and I've taken classes in and outside of school every year so far. My extracurriculars include managing a small magazine for Black and Latinx creators, founding and leading a mental health and neurodiversity support campaign in my school, and I volunteered at the American Museum of Natural History through a fairly selective program. I'm also a URM (multiracial Latina). If those labels are accurate, why? If they're not, where do you think I stand in terms of admissions chances with those schools?
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If you're from an underrepresented minority background (Latinx as well as Black, Indigenous, etc.), that's why your chances look significantly higher than you might expect.
To fully disclose where I'm coming from, I'm both very familiar with CV's data and its sources and have worked with a couple hundred students over the last few years. And there is indeed truly a significant boost at schools that practice "holistic" admissions for students from URM backgrounds. To go a little more deeply into how that works, it mainly appears in the academic thresholds you need to clear to be considered in the later rounds of a school's admissions process. How this works under the hood is that schools compare you directly to people from similar backgrounds and situations to you — that includes both racial or ethnic background as well as your state, so for instance students from states with very high average SAT scores (like Missouri or Utah) will need to clear a higher bar than students from states with lower averages (like Oklahoma or West Virginia). In practice, that means that people from different backgrounds but with similar profiles may have vastly different chances at schools like Smith or NYU because of that difference in circumstances.
(Incidentally, states with lower scores will usually be the states where the SAT is mandatory for all high school students to take — because in states where it's not mandatory, students who aren't aiming for college usually won't take them. You can see averages on Prepscholar here: https://blog.prepscholar.com/average-sat-scores-by-state-most-recent. Both public and private schools may also have lower, or higher, marks for students from their local state or state area vs. ones from farther away.)
Now to read this a little more deeply, this does not necessarily mean that it's easier for you to get into these schools; it means that you can have lower marks (GPA, test scores, course rigor, etc.) than the averages for students admitted to those schools and still make it through the academic filter at the start of the admissions process. Your essays will still be very important; for instance, if you have a 50% chance at a school like Grinnell, that means that your essays need to be stronger than 5 out of the 10 students who apply there to get in. Less than strong essays will make these chances look overinflated after the fact. But if your essays are strong, it's not ridiculous to think that you could get into Barnard 8 out of 10 times.
But incidentally, I also don't think you're giving yourself enough credit. A 3.67 unweighted GPA means you've averaged an A- throughout all classes, which is hard to do. And your ECs involve multiple leadership positions in pretty significant activities — which is usually the bar anyone needs to clear to be considered for top schools. All in all, from experience, this seems realistic to me as long as you can follow through on your actual application with strong essays.
Personally I don't think the CollegeVine chancing algorithm is that not very sophisticated or believable. For my Safety, Target, and Reach schools the percentages don't make any sense. My safety schools are schools where my stats are the top 25% (quartile), for a target they are in the middle 50%, for reach they are in around the lower 25% to 50%. I have a super long list with about 10 safeties, 30 targets, and 20 reaches. C.V. tells me that my chances at all the safeties are like 80-90%, all the targets 50-75%, and all the reaches range between 4% and 12% which is identical to the published stats on their websites across all applicants. So none of the numbers are believable or realistic. Why would I have a 23% chance at Swarthmore and a 56% chance at Amherst and 81% chance at Bowdoin? They have essentially ranked the same right? If CV said 23% Swarthmore, 37% Amherst, 28% Bowdoin, I'd say okay I believe that better. When I've used Niche or AI or other college chance calculators the top 20 schools come back for me about 3-10% higher than published stats which is believable because I have high GPA, high test score, etc. So just copying the percentages for reaches is not accurate at all.
CollegeVine shows on average what people accepted to the university have. "Safety" does not mean you will get in it means people like you have been accepted. There is really no way of knowing admission chances, it all depends on you and other people applying.
So CV algorithm is the most advance free one I know of so it is an excellent guide but it is a guide not a rule.
For example I have a
Rice a Top5 school for me is 2ish% chance
MIchagan is 12%
UT Austin is 70%
So I disagree with that as I would think UT would be lower but Im not an expert and I would say CV is more qualified in that regard. The chancing isn't spot on but if you lower all elite schools sub 50% admittence rating by about 7% except for ivy+ schools remain the same (Harvard rice Stanford mit etc)
I would say in regards to Grinnell (I cant speak or Barnard as I don't know that school) I would say Grinell is a target-reach with my estimate being a coin flip in regards to admittence it depends on the person reviewing the application if they sympathise if they like the essay and rec letter
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