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Geography factor in admissions

Gerald Bradshaw

Gerald Bradshaw

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Updated: December 2, 2013 12:04PM



Dear Mr. Bradshaw,

Do you have some tips about how I can get admitted to a top college?

I know that good grades and test scores mean more to Harvard and Stanford than to colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores.

Aside from that what can I do to gain a few percentage points in my favor with an admissions committee?

Signed, High School Junior

Dear Junior,

This is an important question that many students do not take into consideration when preparing college applications.

Most students focus on grades, test scores and extracurricular activities, but there is a wider field of vision that says that you should think nationally rather than just locally.

Most colleges look for geographical diversity in their applicants. If you are from one of the Midwestern states you can increase your chances for admission by applying to a top college on the east or west coast.

Only 15 percent of students attend college more than 500 miles from their hometown.

Vanderbilt University, Washington University in Saint Louis and the University of Chicago are all top colleges that are seeking to attract a greater geographical diversity from the east and west coasts and southern regions.

Top students applying from southern states have an even greater advantage. Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia are all under-represented at top colleges in the Ivy League, Stanford, Caltech and UC Berkeley.

These colleges usually offer larger financial aid packages for out-of-state students than they do for locals.

While some colleges like UC Berkeley are under financial pressure to control costs, I have clients who are admitted to Berkeley with large scholarships and grants that make up for being an out-of-state student.

And, students from California are sought after by eastern, Midwestern and southern colleges.

If you are a top student and a female you might also consider applying to colleges that are by tradition are majority male like MIT (55 percent male), Caltech (61 percent male) or Harvey Mudd College (58 percent male).

All these colleges admit females at a higher rate than male applicants.

On the other hand, male applicants will have the advantage at colleges like Vassar (54 percent female) and New York University (61.5 percent female). At Skidmore College, 38 percent of females gained acceptance versus 50 percent of males.

Armed with these facts it should be easier to make an informed decision about the best place to get in based on geographical and gender diversity.



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