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Selective College Admissions: A General Q&A

Posted by Categories: Gifted Students, Higher Education

Selective College Admissions: A General Q&A | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)On October 13, 2016, NSGT presented a webinar entitled Current Trends and Considerations in Selective College Admissions: What Every Family Needs to Know! After attending our pre-college programs in the summer, we want students to have successful beginnings at the college or university that best suits them. Therefore we felt this topic was a good one at this time of year for those families anticipating college entrance in the next few years. The interest is this topic was tremendous. If you weren’t able to attend and also are interested in viewing it, please click here.

The webinar was presented by Dr. Matthew Greene, President of Matthew Greene Educational Consulting. Dr. Greene counsels families on secondary school, college, and graduate school admission, as well as career planning, in Connecticut, New York, nationally, and internationally. He has written and co-written a number of books on educational planning, including how to get into college and pay for college.

As Dr. Greene was unable to answer all the questions asked during the webinar within our time frame, our staff thought it might be helpful if we were to address some of the remaining ones in a series of blogs. Today’s questions, in this third blog devoted to college admissions, cover a variety of concerns.

Q: Is that true that a limited number of students can be accepted by one college from one high school?

A: There is no quota of students admitted from a particular school. Admissions eligibility is based on students’ academic, extracurricular, and social involvements within the context of their school. Students are evaluated holistically and not on a predetermined admissions number for that school. Admission is about good fit with the school and determining if the student will contribute positively to the campus community.

Q: Do students from top schools have preference in selection process?

A: Students are evaluated with regard to the school that they attend – did they take the most challenging curriculum? Are they involved in the extracurricular activities that their school offers? Students are evaluated holistically in terms of what they bring to the table. Students should aim for being within the top third of their high school class.

Q: Where can we find top-notch sample essays?

A: One possible resource is It offers a range of different sample essays which highlight various strengths and weaknesses. The website posts different “kinds” of essays and then critiques each one. Some universities also post sample essays on their websites for reference. Your high school guidance office might also have a collection of sample essays for reference.

Q: Will choice of majors influence the admission decision? How does a student’s ability to select a major or focus area of study affect the application process?

A: Selecting a major is not critical in the sense of one major being better than another for admissions purposes. Students are evaluated in terms of their preparedness to study their intended major (or general studies) at the college level. However, some universities typically ask students to apply directly to the school that houses that major (e.g. engineering). In this way, the prospective major does play a role in the admissions process, as it may be more competitive to gain entry to one major over another.

Then there could be a situation where a student wants to apply to a specific BS/MS dual-degree program, in which their intent to study a specific subject could play a role in admissions to that specific academic program. Many schools do not require students to declare a major until the second semester sophomore year, and there is also a lot of room for adapting the chosen academic path. Students who are unsure of their major can apply as undecided, a common choice.

If you have other points you’d like to add to these or any other college admissions questions, please feel free to do so, as all those thinking about or in the process can benefit from collective experience and expertise.

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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