P.B. of Greenvale, NY writes:

I know that there are many variables in college admission decisions, including grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and, of course, the personal statement. That said, are there any websites where students/parents can plug in the "cut and dry" and, while far from absolute certainty, at least get an idea whether they are in the ballpark for admission at a particular college?

The College Whisperer responds:

As you so aptly acknowledge, with so many factors to be weighed, both the objective and the subjective, it is an arduous task for even the most seasoned college admissions professional to make the difficult decision of who gets in and who must go somewhere else. Not only do test scores, GPA, the rigor of the student's course load, the strength of after school activities and community service, and those all-important personal statements and supplemental essays go into the mix, but the likes of demographics, special skills or talents, and, yes, ethnic background and socio-economic status are sometimes thrown in -- for better or for worse -- as a veritable monkey-wrench into the gears of the admission process.

To reduce the various factors and myriad criterion that colleges consider in making admission decisions to an online calculator, of sorts, would be an injustice to both student and admissions personnel. There simply are, as you correctly note, no absolutes!

With this in mind, and since you ask, there are several online resources which have proven to be somewhat reliable indicators of admission success, based, of course, on objective data (SAT/ACT scores, GPA, etc.) input by the student. Some, more than others, permit students to tweak the data so as to indicate the level of coursework (i.e., AP, Honors) as well as participation in activities outside of the classroom.

CampusExplorer.com, for instance, professing to be your guide to finding your "dream college," has a portal for setting up a detailed profile, from which students can "calculate" their odds of getting in to, literally, hundreds of schools.Simply plug in your info, hit "enter," and voila, colleges present on the screen as "Safety," "Target," and "Reach." If only Vegas could give you such odds!

MyChances.net, CollegeData.com
and CampusCompare.com are three among many with online predictors and prognostications. Carnac the Magnificent had nothing on these websites!

Be forewarned that (a) there are no guarantees. The online calculators are, at best, guesstimates. Past admission performance is no guarantee of future admission results. And (b), you will likely be deluged with tons of e-mail (most sites require you to register, creating a login and providing an e-mail address), from colleges you've never heard of offering you application waivers and Dean's scholarships (hey, you never know), to lenders looking for students to take out private loans at hefty interest rates. [Keep that finger at the ready over the "delete" key!]

Try one or all of the online calculators. If nothing more, they are fun diversions.

Also check out CollegeConfidential.com (they, too, require registration), which is more of an online forum than a straight forward prediction tool. Here you'll find articles and discussions, including threads posted by students, parents, and college officials (or so they say), offering insight about the colleges themselves as well as your "chances" of being accepted.

Of course, one of the best resources in the "What are my chances..." category is the college's own website. While many are intentionally vague as to the weight and breadth of admissions criteria, they will give you a pretty good idea of what they're looking for, and may even provide ranges of scores and grades, often as "averages" or "medians," for good measure.

Again, as the calculators will show, along the matrix there are those with perfect GPAs and standardized test scores who do not make the cut, while others, seemingly well below par, somehow manage to get in. [Being a female Pacific Islander whose single parent served in the military, lost three fingers on the dominant hand, and can whistle Dixie while doing the Charleston two-step, couldn't hurt. ;-)]

"Chances" are just that. Chances. Keep in mind that, grades and test scores aside, you can significantly improve your odds of acceptance at the college of choice by demonstrating your abilities in other areas. Superior community service, a talent in music, art, or a specified field valued by a school, a "knock-em-out-of-the-box" essay, and a complete, accurate and timely application can work wonders, if not miracles.

Then, too, one should take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of both guidance counselor and independent college counselor. They can not only give you a pretty good idea as to your "chances," more often than not, they can also help you beat the odds!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer, the authors of referenced articles and websites, and such guest bloggers as may appear.
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