Newsletter Issue 44, April 2017
Record numbers of applicants for Harvard Class of 2021
A record 39,506 students applied for the Harvard Class of 2021, of whom 2,056 were offered admission. The admissions rate of 5.20% was slightly lower than last year (5.22%). Applications from the UK were also at their highest ever and offers of admission were sent to 34 UK applicants. They will be joined in September by another four students who were admitted in 2016 but elected to take a gap year.
All but one of the Ivy League schools reported record numbers of applicants for the Class of 2021 (note that American universities describe each year group by the year of graduation, not the year of entry). For comparison, here are this year’s acceptance rates for the ‘Ivy Plus’ group (the eight Ivy League schools plus MIT and Stanford):
Brown 8.3% (2,722 accepted from 32,724 applicants)
Columbia 5.8% (2,185 accepted from 37,389 applicants)
Cornell 12.5% (5,889 accepted from 47,038 applicants)
Dartmouth 10.4% (2,092 accepted from 20,034 applicants)
Harvard 5.2% (2,056 accepted from 39,506 applicants)
Pennsylvania 9.2% (3,699 accepted from 40,413 applicants)
Princeton 6.1% (1,890 accepted from 31,056 applicants)
Yale 6.9% (2,272 accepted from 32,900 applicants)
MIT 7.1% (1,438 accepted out of 20,247 applicants)
Stanford 4.7% (2,050 accepted from 44,073 applicants – making Stanford the most competitive university in America)
Top US colleges are statistically more difficult to get in to than Russell Group universities in the UK, although direct comparisons can be 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.
As top US colleges become ever more competitive for admission, our message to UK students thinking of applying next year remains the same: apply broadly to a range of competitive and less competitive universities in both the US and the UK to give yourself the greatest chance of success.
Deadline for accepting offers to US Colleges: 1st May
Many congratulations to those of you in Year 13 who have recently received offers of admission to US colleges. 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 else. 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.
The Harvard Admissions Office will let students on the waitlist know about their status as early in May as possible, and at the latest by the end of June (by US college agreement). 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 admitted 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: 10 June 2017
- SAT: 6 May 2017 (SAT and SAT Subject Tests); 3 June 2017 (Subject Tests only)
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)
- Watch (without an audible alarm)
- 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 or strikes
Further details of what to bring, and (importantly) what not to bring, can be found on these websites:
Link to SAT test day checklist
Link to ACT test day checklist
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. Our suggestions about how to maximise your scores are as follows:
- Take both of the free online practice tests and go with whichever one gives you the better score.
- A good score is one that fits the profile of the colleges you have selected.
- Consider test dates, locations of test centres, and availability of places and PLAN AHEAD.
- Familiarity with the test is the best way to boost your score, so schedule a regular practice session of 2-3 hours per week.
- For the SAT, use the free online practice tools provided by the Khan Academy.
- The ACT has started charging for its own online practice tools, but there is free practice material available on other sites, including this one.
If your test scores don’t reflect your potential, consider one of the test flexible or optional schools. Click here for a full list of test optional schools.