Offers of admission are sent to Harvard Class of 2020
On 31st March the Harvard Admissions Office informed the record 39,041 applicants for the Harvard Class of 2020 whether they had been successful. (Note that American universities describe each cohort of admitted students by their year of graduation, not their year of entry.) A total of 2,037 students (5.2%) were offered admission, slightly lower than last year when Harvard’s global admission rate was 5.3%.
UK students fared a little better: of the 523 that applied to Harvard College, 35 were offered admission (6.7%). They will be joined this September by another six UK students who were admitted in 2015 but elected to take a gap year.
For comparison, here are this year’s acceptance rates for all eight Ivy League schools:
Brown 9.0% (2,919 accepted from 32,390 applicants)
Columbia 6.0% (2,193 accepted from 36,292 applicants)
Cornell 14.0% (6,277 accepted from 44,966 applicants)
Dartmouth 10.5% (2,176 accepted from 20,675 applicants)
Harvard 5.2% (2,037 accepted from 39,041 applicants)
Pennsylvania 9.4% (3,661 accepted from 38,918 applicants)
Princeton 6.5% (1,894 accepted from 29,303 applicants)
Yale 6.3% (1,972 accepted from 31,455 applicants)
Outside the Ivy League, the most competitive university in America is Stanford in California, whose acceptance rate this year was 4.7% (2,063 accepted from 43,997 applicants). MIT – which is often considered part of the Ivy Plus group together with Stanford and the eight Ivy League schools – offered admission to 1,485 out of 19,020 applicants for an admissions rate of 7.8%.
Top US colleges are statistically more difficult to get in to than Russell Group universities in the UK, although direct comparisons are misleading because of the way in which the applications are submitted. The US has a completely free market system where anyone, of any age, may submit applications directly to as many universities as they wish. This generates a certain proportion of unsuitable applications that would get filtered out under the British system, where UCAS applications are submitted via students’ schools, not directly by the students themselves, and therefore are subject to vetting before submission.
Students currently in Year 12 who will be applying to US colleges in the autumn are advised to apply broadly to a range of competitive and less competitive universities in both the US and the UK to give themselves the greatest chance of success.
Deadline for accepting offers to US Colleges: 1st May
Many congratulations to those of you in Year 13 who received offers of admission to US colleges at the end of March. You have until 1st May to accept, decline or defer any offers you have received. A question that is sometimes asked by students at this time of year is:
I have been placed on the waitlist for my first choice college but have also been given a firm offer from another college that is lower in my list of preferences. What should I do?
You should accept the offer from the lower preference college before the 1st May deadline. Then, if you are subsequently offered a place at your first choice college you should accept it, and withdraw from the other college. It is perfectly acceptable to do this as your withdrawal from the other college will free up a place for someone on their own waitlist. But if you don’t get an offer from your first choice college, your place at the other college will be secure. Always keep your options open for as long as possible.
Waitlisted students are usually told if they will be offered a place between 1st May and 1st July. Some colleges occasionally offer students the opportunity to defer to the following year if not enough slots become available, allowing the student to take a gap year to undertake travel, work experience and community service in the knowledge that a firm place awaits them at the end. The proportion of waitlisted students offered places varies somewhat from year to year, as it depends on how many other students take up their places, and how many waitlisted students take up firm offers elsewhere.
SAT and ACT test dates are fast approaching
Many students in Year 12 will be taking the SAT/ACT on the final test dates of this academic year, which are:
- ACT: 11 June 2016
- SAT: 7 May and 4 June 2016
You should plan your practice so that you are at peak performance just before the test date. Students normally find that their scores in the actual test are slightly below their best scores in practice. This is perfectly normal, but it means that you should aim to achieve higher than your target score in your final practice sessions before the test.
Spring or summer is a good time to take the tests because if you do not get as good a score as you hoped, you have the option of re-taking them in the autumn and still meeting the deadline for submitting the scores to your chosen colleges. But an even better plan is to achieve good scores at your first attempt!
Test Day Checklist
A basic checklist for both the SAT and ACT is:
- Photo ID
- Admission ticket
- Two or three sharpened HB pencils (equivalent to US no. 2 pencils)
- Soft pencil eraser
- Acceptable calculator (scientific or graphing calculator)
- Small bottle of water
- Make sure you know where the Test Centre is located and can find the entrance
- Leave home early in case your journey is delayed
- Check train times in case of weekend engineering works
Further details of what to bring, and (importantly) what not to bring, can be found on the SAT and ACT websites:
Choosing between the SAT and ACT
If you are in Year 11, and will be taking the SAT or ACT next year, you may be wondering how to choose which of the two tests to take, given that US colleges accept them both equally. Students capable of getting top grades at GCSE and A Level will perform well in both tests, but they are structured differently, so it ultimately boils down to which style of exam you prefer. A revised version of the SAT came into effect from May 2016, so you should read this article by Kate Treatman-Clark (first published in the February 2016 newsletter) which explains the differences between the two tests and how to decide which is the more suitable for you.