How were you admitted to college/university?

This question is for those who are currently attending a degree-granting institution, or have received a Bachelor’s degree. I’m interested in finding out how you were admitted to the college or university.

My experience: I went to high school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I spent five years in high school, as was then normal for Ontario students wishing to attend university. While I was there, I enjoyed playing in the school concert band, working on the annual drama club production, writing for the yearbook, and being on the Reach for the Top team (television high school quiz show).

But when I applied to universities, the extracurriculars didn’t matter. The schools only looked at my marks (grades), and two letters of recommendation from my high school teachers. And of course in Canada, we do not write the SATs. In spite of this, I was still accepted to all the schools I applied to (for the record, they were U of Toronto, Queen’s University, and York University). I chose to go to the University of Toronto, and I received a degree from there in due course.

Contrast this with my wife’s experience. She went to high school in Pueblo, Colorado. There, she studied of course, but also was on the track team and in the orchestra, among other activities. She also had to write the SATs. So her college applications reflected her involvement with school activities, grades, SAT scores, and so on. I believe personal interviews and personal statements were also required of her.

I’m kind of surprised that she had to let the school know of all that and that they would consider such things, and she is kind of surprised that my schools admitted people on grades alone, basically. So our questions to you Dopers are the following:

  1. Where and when did you go to university/college?
  2. What criteria did the school use in deciding whether to admit you?
  3. Which do you believe provides a better assessment of the student’s likely success at university: grades alone or grades plus SATs/extracurriculars/interviews/statements?

(I’ll reserve my answer to number 3 until later in the discussion.)

  1. In Spain, 1986-1994 (that length of time is perfectly normal for a “superior engineer”).
  2. That particular school/major has a “selective first year”. You must have finished high school and passed the country-wide “selectividad”, but no specific GPA is requested. Usually, the ratio of “students in the first year” to “lab slots in the second” is 3:1; this leads to most people taking first, retaking first, then moving to second. 1/3 of all students never make it to second (for the confused, keep in mind that in any given year, half the 1st-year students are repeats).

Other engineering and hard-science majors have similar philosophies; I know a chemistry school where in September the 1st-year students can’t fit in the lectures, half of them have disappeared come Christmas, and after the February exams you pretty much know which ones are going to graduate… the ones that weren’t really interested have dropped out.

Most other school/majors have a limit in the number of students: highest grade, first serve until they run out of space.

  1. Depends among other things on your definition of success and on what you expect of a student. Also, in the US things like teamwork are not learned in class; in Spain they are. I was amazed at how bad my US students were at anything that they had to pair up for… I was used to teaming up with my classmates without any direction from the teachers. The US students, you almost had to use a cattle prod and then you had to explain it using small words (they did things like “one student grabs the bottle of concentrated HCl and the other one grabs the test tube”… no, one pours and the other writes it down! “but then we’re not working together” There aren’t enough :smack:s)
  1. The US, 2004-present (class of 2008). I’m currently studying abroad in Edinburgh.

  2. High school transcript, SAT scores, resume with extracurriculars, personal essay, 2 teacher recomendations, having a parent who went to the same college. I had an interview with an alumna which they claim doesn’t really affect your application, which was lucky for me because it went terribly.

  3. My high school, a private “college prepatory,” had incredibly inflated grades. In some subjects, more than 60% of students would get A’s and my father, a teacher at my school, was once chastised for grading one of his senior classes too harshly for the midsemester reports that would be sent to the colleges they had applied to. So I think as long as high schools are benefiting from the prestigious colleges they get kids into, some criteria other than straight up grades needs to be used. But the current system is ridiculous and just seems to benefit the kids whose parents can or will hire SAT tutors and application coaches and “help” write their essays. I also really dislike that children of alumni are given an admission benefit, although I most likely benefited from it.

1) Where and when did you go to university/college? Lincoln University. I graduated last year.

2) What criteria did the school use in deciding whether to admit you? My UCAS application. This is how everyone applies to university in the UK. It includes my grades, my extracurriculars, statements from my tutor and my own statement.

**3) Which do you believe provides a better assessment of the student’s likely success at university: grades alone or grades plus SATs/extracurriculars/interviews/statements?**In the end I think it’s the grades that matter. However the extras can give a more rounded view of the person, and should be considered.

AngelicGemma - not everyone applies through UCAS in the UK. I did my degree through the Open University - no application forms, no interviews, no qualifications required. I just applied online, picked the course I wanted to do, told them how I was paying for it and they said “yes”. Six years later I got my degree and now I’m just dabbling in other courses for fun.

I graduated cough [sub]back in prehistoric times[/sub] cough, but even back then it was quite similar to what stucco said – grade transcript, 2 letters of recommendation, personal essay/statement, and SAT/ACH test scores.

Your grades and SAT/ACH scores, back then, determined to where you’d apply, with the help of your school’s college counselor. Like stucco, I also attended prep school. We had extensive help available (tutoring, advising, etc.) during the entire univeristy application process. If you had your heart set on a particular university and, say, your grades/scores didn’t even come close to the university’s average score, you could apply and [could possibly be accepted if you had a particular talent or personal qualities that outshone your grades. Instances like that were far and few between, though, unless you were an athlete looking for a scholarship.

Most kids applied to 7-10 different schools. A lot got their first choice; most got either their second or third. I ended up going to one of my “safety” schools (a school you apply to where you KNOW you’ll be admitted) because it was the closest to my home without my having to live at home. That and I wasn’t allowed to apply out-of-state…eh, that’s a subject for another thread.

A lot of post-university age adults attend PT (part time) university programs. They’re not “open” like the concept ScareyFaerie described because you still have to apply to a particular program and be accepted. Their class schedules are designed for “working adults”, meaning they meet once a week and/or on weekends and are accelerated so you can earn your certificate/degree in half the time than you would doing the regular FT university route.

Now you’ve got me wishing I could repeat the entire process!

  1. Virginia Tech, 2007-11 (probably, unless I take less time than that)
  2. I applied Early Decision, which basically meant that I had to send in the (online) application by November 1; if they accept me (and they did), I have to go there. All they wanted were my grades, my SAT scores, my course, and an optional essay. No SAT IIs, no teacher recs, not even a counselor rec. I got lucky, especially since it’s the only place I applied to; if I hadn’t gotten in there ED, I would have had to do three applications in a few days. (GMU, JMU, GA Tech).
  3. I think any information available can be very deceiving. Someone with okay grades may simply have had sucky teachers or not been good at the subject; somebody with two extracurriculars may have devoted a lot of time to each of them (which is sort of the case for me).

1) Where and when did you go to university/college?
Currently attending University of Michigan, 2001-present
2) What criteria did the school use in deciding whether to admit you?
I had a 3.997 GPA, graduated Salutatorian, had been secretary of National Honor Society, 2nd chair trombone in band, had two AP English credits and one college Psych credit and had a slew of extra-curricular activities, everything from drama to jazz band. Yes, I was an overachiever.

Admissions criteria were as follows (not in a particular order)
GPA (3.2 minimum, 3.7 avg)
ACT/SAT score (avg 28 for ACT, dunno about SAT cuz I never took it.)
extra-curricular (varies)
personal statement (strong emphasis on a commitment to diversity… in other words, you get major points if you point out how different your life experience has been from most other people’s… ethnicity, sexuality, gender, social or economic class, whatever… and how that will contribute to your education.)
diversity points (read: affirmative action)
3) Which do you believe provides a better assessment of the student’s likely success at university: grades alone or grades plus SATs/extracurriculars/interviews/statements?**
Grades alone are a terrible reflection, I believe of a person’s likelihood of success. Any bad thing can happen in your life that can cause your grades to take a hit. Some of the most critical thinkers are average students. I don’t put much stock at all in standardized test scores…there have been scads of research done on them, and they don’t have a very strong correlation with academic achievement, with special bias against inner city kids. Personally I feel the personal statement is most crucial. Right away you can get a sense of the student’s level of intelligence (and being able to use written communication persuasively is ESSENTIAL to success at a university), an idea of their personality, what they find to be most important in life, etc. Secondary to personal statement would be extra-curriculars – an opportunity to demonstrate leadership potential. Grades I guess would be third. Anybody below a 3.0 would raise some alarms for me, but an intelligent and persuasive personal statement would override that.

In that case everyone can pretend I wrote - “this is the most common way…” :wink:

Of course they can, and then they can go back and read it again to see if their eyes were deceiving them or not! :smiley:

1) Where and when did you go to university/college?
Radford University, '03-'07
2) What criteria did the school use in deciding whether to admit you?
GPA, SATs, and extracurriculars; there was an option to include teacher recs and/or personal statements, but I did neither.
3) Which do you believe provides a better assessment of the student’s likely success at university: grades alone or grades plus SATs/extracurriculars/interviews/statements?
That depends on what the university is looking for. If they want well rounded students, they might be better off considering more factors.

We’re neighbors!

1) Where and when did you go to university/college?
The University of Iowa, 1995-99.

2) What criteria did the school use in deciding whether to admit you?
Because I was an Iowa resident, I was admitted based upon my ACT score alone. In Iowa, if your ACT score is above a certain (fairly but not ridiculously low) number, you were automatically admitted, IIRC.

I applied to many small liberal arts colleges as well, however, and for those, grades, essays, recommendations, and extracurriculars also mattered.

3) Which do you believe provides a better assessment of the student’s likely success at university: grades alone or grades plus SATs/extracurriculars/interviews/statements?
For purely academic success, I think test scores (ACT or SAT), grades, and the personal essays are good predictors, when looking at all three. Recommendations are worthless because nobody sends a bad recommendation. Extracurriculars are too problematic–for example, the girl I knew who had the most impressive resume on that score was actually a very scattered person who did many things but in a mediocre fashion. People get flustered in interviews.

Grades alone present an unclear picture. I am well aware that grades are manipulated by college-minded students and their parents. It is too easy to get As these days, and in many schools, it’s impossible to tell what grading scale was used. It is harder to fake performance on a standardized test. I prefer the ACT for its more real-world academic bent (English, reading, math, science). Finally, writing ability is important for academic success, so I would include the essay in my assessment.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2004-2008.

  2. Grades and SAT scores matter, but something like 80% of the applicant pool have sufficient grades and scores, and they can only admit 10%. They pay a lot more attention to your written statements on the application, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and of course letters of recommendation. There was also an interview, which they said ‘can only help, not hurt’ (right…)

They look for students with a ‘theme’ - some particular endeavor that they have demonstrated a pronounced interest in and commitment to. They would much rather see you pick one or two extracurricular activities and accomplish something significant with them, rather than be president of five clubs and ‘involved’ in fifteen more, without anything to really show for it other than line items on the application.

Personally, I did a lot of software programming - I wrote management applications for my school, co-founded a startup, and so forth. I participated in basically no school-organized clubs, sports, or any of that.

  1. Well, it depends on how you define ‘success’. If you’re talking strictly about grades, then high school grades are probably a good indicator. But college is about more than just grades - and your letters of recommendations, extracurricular activities, and so forth are probably a much better gauge of whether you will take advantage of the opportunities that the college offers.

*1) Where and when did you go to university/college?
*Enrolled (Matriculated) in 2005 at the University of Glasgow, studying for an MEng Aeronautical Engineering

2) What criteria did the school use in deciding whether to admit you?
My A-level results coupled with numerous phone calls to the faculty head

3) Which do you believe provides a better assessment of the student’s likely success at university: grades alone or grades plus SATs/extracurriculars/interviews/statements?
For any course, good academic success to date must be considered and gives a good assessment of the student’s likely success in the future. Of course, though, you can’t really make a judgement on what a student will be like unless they attend an interview. Particularly in my case (explained below), it looked like my grades were going to be lower than my true potential.

When I was in my first year of college, I was in a car accident and had a massive head injury. Which wasn’t cool. I spent a lot of time off college, and had to take a third year to complete my studies. Up until then, I’d always known I was smart and was hoping to study Medicine, but after my injury and with the associated memory problems, I thought I’d never be able to carry on with that route and applied via UCAS to study Criminology at Brighton Uni.

During my third year at college, though, it was clear that I didn’t have any long-term problems (incredibly lucky) and had a new-found work ethic and managed to get top of the class in Maths and good grades in all my others. I realised I should probably go for another ‘nerdy’ degree (with no disrespect to the Social Sciences, I’m just better at the number-ey sciences rather than the wordy ones). I’d spent too much time in hospital at that point to have any aspirations of Medicine again, so I looked for a course with high entry requirements and Aero Eng was at the top of the list, and I got in via the clearing process to the same Uni as my (at the time) girlfriend.

Perhaps not the best way to choose my institution/course, but I’ve definitely landed on my feet. I really enjoy this course, it’s really suited to me and I’m good at it. Love the city, too.

Not to derail this thread, but this reply only pertains to #3.

The SAT’s are a joke. They predict about 15% of the variance in first-year first-semester grades, and even less in final GPA from college. Anyone interested in this test and topic should read The Big Test which is a history of the SAT and “meritocracy” in America.

The test was actualy designed to include people from non-WASP/white-bred backgrounds so they might get a Harvard education. Unfortunately, it became a for-profit corporation (ETS) that was able to test almost all high school seniors across the nation. It is BIG business and has little if any predictive validity of success in college.

There is also an interesting Frontline episode called “Secrets of the SAT” that I recommend.

1) Where and when did you go to university/college?

Bowling Green State University in Ohio, 1980-1984.

2) What criteria did the school use in deciding whether to admit you?

High school transcript and ACT score. I think a lot of state schools are like that - if you are a resident of the state and your grades and SAT/ACT are high enough, you’re in. I’d guess the exceptions to that are those like schools like Michigan that have so many applicants with good grades and scores that they can’t accept them all and have to have other ways of thinning the herd.

3) Which do you believe provides a better assessment of the student’s likely success at university: grades alone or grades plus SATs/extracurriculars/interviews/statements?

I guess that depends on your definition of “success” and what the school wants in its student body. As far as just grades go, it probably also depends on what high school the student attended - I knew students at my college who had higher high school GPAs than I did, but were considerably less prepared for the onslaught of college-level work than I was. And in turn I was less prepared than some others who’d gone to one of the Catholic schools in the state who have a reputation for being particularly demanding academically. Students with good GPAs and a lot of extracurriculars are probably generally more organized, at least, and being able to do a number of things well is most likely a good indicator of being able to cope with the higher demands of college.

  1. McGill University, graduated 2003

  2. Same as Spoons - transcripts and letters of recommendation. The difference is that in Quebec, we have one less year of high school and attend CEGEP, sort of a junior college, for two years before going to university. There’s no such thing as a “freshman year” for us - university is normally three years, because all of those entry-level courses are taken care of at CEGEP.

  3. I don’t think grades alone are a good marker of a student’s future. I’ve never done the SATs so I can’t say much about them, but I think in many cases it can be helpful to interview potential students before admitting them. For example, I went back to school after McGill, to do a 3-year CEGEP degree in medical technology. They interviewed all the students coming in, to be sure they understood what they were getting into, because it’s an incredibly demanding program. Even with interviews to pick out the most serious students, 40% of the students dropped out or flunked out in the first year.

  1. Where and when did you go to university/college?
    University of Toronto, 1979, then later to Laurentian, Waterloo and Western.
  2. What criteria did the school use in deciding whether to admit you?
    High school grades only.
  3. Which do you believe provides a better assessment of the student’s likely success at university: grades alone or grades plus SATs/extracurriculars/interviews/statements?

A child should not be denied admission based on whether or not he or she was a jock in high school, or was popular with other chldren and teachers, or happened to have interests that coincided with available organized activites during high school, or did not come from a family with enough money to fund extras.

In Ontario, all the universities are very good, and there are enough spaces open that any reasonably intelligent person will be admitted to at least one of them. For the most part, it is just a matter of a student’s personal preference for most students.

From the university side, in Ontario top students are attracted through scholarships and through specific program reputations, so for general admissions there is no need to go beyond grades – they will be admitting the top ones anyway.

Some kids have poor grades in high school because they are immature. If they are not admitted to university the first time round, they can get a bit of life experience and try later as mature students, when high school grades are not a big deal.

  1. Johns Hopkins University, graduated 2006
  2. HS grades, SAT scores, SAT II scores (three of them), two recommendations, an essay or three, and activities/extracurriculars.
  3. Not grades, until there’s some way of having them REMOTELY be comparable between two different high schools, never mind between any reasonable cross-section of high schools in the nation/world. Frankly, right now, I think that grades can easily be the least indicative of all of those factors for any given individual case. Among the people of high-school age that I know/knew, SAT scores certainly aren’t perfect, but they tend to be more correlated to how intelligent those people are than GPA was. If you look deeply enough at what they’re doing for extracurriculars and what the essays say, I think it probably gives a better impression of work ethic as well. I know, anecdotal evidence and all that jazz, but that’s basically what this sort of thread is, so… /shrug.

In the same vein, out of the dozen or so in my high school class who had what would be considered “elite” GPAs by entrance standard requirements (we were a small preparatory HS with no appreciable grade inflation), the raw numbers all looked pretty similar, but there was a very wide range of intelligence and ‘likely to perform in the future’ that ranged from “will drop out of state school a year from now” to “will graduate in four years from a prestigious private university with a Master’s and then enter an Ivy League PhD program”, and a bunch of us in the middle. Despite the fact that the GPAs all looked the same, there were some pretty apparent factors that could be looked at to give a much more complete picture of who would stand where; while it’s by no means a perfect science, adding in scores/essays/activities generally helps things correlate much better.

On a related note, I think letters of recommendation (in general, really, but especially in this circumstance) are useless and then some. Every student that’s got the grades to apply to a decent school is going to have at least a couple teachers who like him and are willing to say Generic Good Things about him. More than anything else it comes down to “Letters of How Good a Writer my Favorite Teacher Is, and How Tired He/She is of Writing These Stupid Formulaic Letters”. I guess it’s good practice for begging for such letters later on in life.

1 Princeton, late 80s

2 SATs 1490, All As, community service-type extra-curriculars, letters of rec, legacy (father and brother) probably counted; my personal statements were BS–I’m 15, what do I know about life?

3 My school gets probably ten applications for every spot. I say choose the best scholars and then among them pick the most interesting and diverse population.