What the heck is a HYPSter? It’s part acronym, part tongue-in-cheek term, meaning the kind of student who is accepted and attends a highly selective college like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, etc.–in other words, students attending the top colleges in the country.
Many students aspire to these colleges, but many aren’t able to attend. What makes them so special? What makes one student HYPSter material and another student not?
Last year, Harvard University announced that they accepted only 2.8% of all regular decision applicants. Their overall acceptance rate (early + regular) is somewhere around 5%.
You know your kid is special but is your kid THAT special? This is actually an incredibly important question to ponder as you embark on the college search.
Good grades and test scores won’t get you into the Ivy League
One of the biggest challenges students face is in knowing what, for them, personally, constitutes a reach school. A school where the chances of admission are reasonable, or a place that is a safer bet. Many students create lists that are top-heavy (too many reaches). Simply because their admissions statistics fall within the average for a particular school.
As you create your list of colleges, you cannot simply look at the average standardized test scores and high school GPAs. That’s not enough information. You also need to look at, among other factors, the number of students a college accepts.
The HYPSter’s (Harvard, Yale, Princeton/Penn, Stanford and the like) accept a percentage of applicants that is consistently in or near the single digits. The majority of their applicants fall within the statistical averages for these schools. Yet they only accept somewhere between 5 and 10 out of every 100 students that apply.
Some of these schools will make public the number of students with perfect standardized test scores they deny each year. So, one thing is for sure: Any school with an acceptance rate less than, say, about 20%, is a reach for just about every student.
This means that you cannot have a college list comprised of Ivy and quasi-Ivy schools and honestly say that you have some reasonable and safer bets on that list.
What can your HYPSter student bring to an Ivy League (or Ivy-like) college?
The other thing we know for sure is that the colleges that are accepting only a small handful of applicants are looking at factors other than just your GPA and your standardized test scores.
They also are not just looking for applicants who are involved in extracurricular activities. Just as there are more qualified students than these schools can accept, so too are there an ample number of young people who have a robust list of sports, clubs, and volunteer work. The students who secure a coveted spot at a highly selective college bring something unique and different as part of their application.
They don’t just play a sport in high school, they play it well enough to contribute to the college team (i.e., they are a recruited athlete). These students don’t just play a musical instrument, they’ve played in a highly selective youth orchestra and have won national concerto competitions. These folks did not just join clubs, they founded new ones that contributed something significant to their community. These students did not just participate in scientific research, they made a new discovery and had it published. Do you think this sounds over the top and like hyperbole? It’s most definitely not.
The qualifications of the students denied a spot at these colleges are themselves an incredibly impressive lot.
Elite colleges are looking for all types of students – Top Colleges In The World
The good news is that in order to be accepted to an elite college or university. Your student doesn’t have to be one specific type of student. They don’t necessarily need to be an athlete or a band member. If those aren’t their strong suites, then they can participate in math or science or art in some meaningful way. The key here is “meaningful way”–these schools are looking for more than simple involvement. They want students who have demonstrated they are exceptional at something(s).
Give yourself (or your student) a good, long honest look. Do you bring something to a college that very, very few other students bring? If the answer is no, you can still apply to these most highly selective colleges. But make sure you round out your list with some schools with much more reasonable odds of admission.
Remember that a school that is accepting 30% of its applicants is still a very selective place. They are still attracting top-quality students. While each admitted student needs to be outstanding, not everyone needs to be so superlative that they’re virtually the only person in the country who brings a specific skill or characteristic to the table.
There is also an element of unpredictability in this process. You may be that superlative applicant. But the HYPSter type schools may still not need the uniqueness that you bring, and you’ll never know this, so spread your risk and be realistic. There are so many colleges and universities in this country where you can receive an outstanding education, network with incredibly talented people and have a sea of opportunity once you have your degree in hand.
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