The percentage of applicants accepted by any college or university can vary from 100 percent at open admissions schools, like the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Northwestern Polytechnic, and Weber State, to less than 10 percent at selective institutions, highly selective institutions like Harvard, Stanford, CalTech, and MIT. The percentage of students offered full need- or merit-based scholarships can be as little as less than one percent of students who have been offered admission. With the college admissions process shrouded in secrecy, there is no perfect application strategy or guaranty of being offered admission for even the most academically accomplished student. For example, in 2017, one of our most academically accomplished students was offered admission to Princeton, Amherst, Emory, Duke, Williams, Vanderbilt, Swarthmore, Washington and Lee, Spelman, Xavier (LA), and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, yet was denied admission to Davidson College. In 2018, another highly accomplished student (one who scored ‘5s’ on all 9 of her AP exams) was offered admission to Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, Washington & Lee, Duke, University of Richmond, Tuskegee, and Wake Forest, but waitlisted at Princeton. Hence, there are no guarantees. However, an effective application strategy resulting in the submission of a high quality application can significantly tip the odds in your favor.


  • Identify the method for submitting your application and admissions cycle to which you will apply to each of your colleges.
  • Identify the writing prompts, recommendations, etc., required for each institution.
  • Develop a strategy for applying to each of your colleges.

Estimated time to complete: Undetermined. File behind your College Research tab.

Guiding Questions

  • Have I identified the method through which I will submit each of my college applications (e.g., Common Application, college’s website, by mail)?
  • Have I developed a plan for making a clear and strong connection between what is viewed as ‘Very Important’ by the college, and my essay, recommendation letters, résumé, and application supplements?