The Incomparable Applicant

Each year, kids with better grades and scores get rejected, while applicants with lesser academic credentials get in.

Harvard brags that it denies 500 or so kids with perfect SAT/ACT scores each year.   They also decline 1,000 or so valedictorians.

But it’s not just Harvard and other Ivies that blindside “shoe-in” highly-qualified students and parents.  Vanderbilt and similar-tiered colleges also reject scores of valedictorians.

Why?  How does a kid with lower standardized test scores and grades get the nod over a “superior” competitor?

Two answers come to mind.

The first has to do with the college’s agenda.  Meaning, what are they looking for, what type of kid will help them “build their class.”

Here’s what most competitive colleges want:  an ATYPICAL teen.

Put it this way:  if a college receives 40,000 applications for 5,000 slots, but approximately 10,000 applicants have virtually the same grades and scores…

…You must answer a big question when you submit your application:

Why should they take YOU, compared to all the other kids who look the same on paper?

Your task is to show them how you are not the ordinary, “regular” kid.

A regular, typical kids joins a bunch of clubs.  He’s in National Honor Society (sorry, this is “typical,” not “special.”  Count the number of other inductees some time.)

An Atypical Teen starts a club. Or engages in activities that very few of her peers – if any – pursue.  Like interning at a business in a field she’s considering going into.

If your school does not offer a formal intern program, do you throw your hands up and say, “Well, I tried, but it didn’t work out. (Sigh.)”


But only if you’re a typical, “slacker” kid.  🙂

But if you’re Atypical, you’ll create your own experience.  Perhaps not a full-blown internship, but at least a “Shadowing” or similar arrangement.

That’s the first component of how to multiply your chances of admissions.   Here’s the rest of the story of how transform your ordinary (on paper!) kid into an “Incomparable Applicant.”

(Note:  enter the coupon code POSITION to receive a $200 discount through the end of July.)

Your correspondent,

– Andy Lockwood

Andrew Lockwood, J.D. is a “late-stage” college planner.  For more information, see his websites: