Five Surprising Facts for Students Interested in Top Ranked Universities

If you, like thousands of other college applicants, are lured in by the big names of top universities (places you’d see on the sweatshirts they sell at tourist kiosks, places like Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford) here are some surprising facts you should consider before applying.

1. Are you in love with the Ivy League? Consider the statistics. Strap in for our first fun statistic: there are over 40,000 high schools in the USA. This means that there are at least 40,000 valedictorians who graduate every year. Meanwhile, the entire Ivy League only has about 14,000 spaces for incoming freshmen. Even if you’re a top student, you need to include schools on your college list that are outside the Ivy League. Aim high, but also realize that there are many more qualified applicants than there are spaces.  


2. Really examine your qualifications. Most colleges publish a ‘class profile’ that will give you an indication of what a successful applicant to that school looks like. If you’re wondering, here’s one from the University of Chicago and another from Oxford. While some give only cursory data, others are detailed. If your profile doesn’t match those of previously accepted students, take it as a gentle warning: it is unlikely that you’ll be admitted to a college where your scores aren’t at least in their middle 50%.

3. Rankings don’t necessarily guarantee success. Robust research from the Gallup-Purdue Index tells us that it isn’t so much about where you go to college as opposed to what you do in college. The types of experiences that forecast success can happen on any college campus. Make lasting relationships, join activities, and get yourself a job or internship to maximize your time in college.  

4. While rankings are everything, if you want to increase your chances of being admitted to a global top 20 you should look outside the USA. The QS World University Rankings include institutions like Australian National University. Unlike the Ivy League, ANU is crystal clear about what they require for entry. If you’d like to major in the field of Computer Science, you can apply to the Bachelor of Advanced Computing. If you’ve gotten at least a 1470 (SAT) or 32 (ACT) you’ve met the requirements and it is very likely that you’ve already got the credentials that will get you into a global top 20. Graduates of Advanced Computing go on to work at places like IBM, Google, Microsoft, and Intel.

5. Top American colleges usually meet full demonstrated financial need, but other countries can offer an elite name at a cheaper price. The University of Toronto sits right next to Northwestern University on the QS World University Rankings. The cost of attendance to study Commerce and Business Administration at Toronto is about $47,000/year (in USD). Meanwhile, you could study Economics with a Certificate from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, but you’d be paying around $75,000/year (in USD). If cost is important to you, it might be worthwhile to consider a geographically broad college search.

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Monica Gallego Rude