Oberlin Blogs

What are my chances?

November 11, 2010

Elizabeth Houston ’06

Every so often, I venture over to some of the online college discussion forums, and I'm always struck by the overwhelming popularity of "chance me" threads. For the blissfully unaware, this practice involves posting your GPA, test scores, demographic information, extracurriculars, and anything else you can think of, with a plea for responses commenting on your chances of getting into a particular school. Now, I understand the basic human need for reassurances and the desire for an outside opinion, and I know the college application process can be stressful. I can see what would motivate someone to post a "chance me" comment, but the whole idea is, basically, absurd.

Let's recap: you're providing a small amount of information and asking a question that even a trained admissions counselor at that school would be unable to authoritatively answer without reviewing your entire application. But you're not asking a trained admissions counselor, or even someone else knowledgeable about the process (such as, perhaps, your high school college counselor). Instead, you are farming out the question to an anonymous mass of complete strangers who probably don't know anything more than you do. What are the chances of this producing a good result? I'd say it's pretty unlikely.

It's important to note that, especially at schools like Oberlin, who use a holistic review process to evaluate applications, it really is impossible to reliably predict whether or not you will be admitted on the basis of some bare-bones information like your GPA and test scores. The full application and various supporting documents are required for a reason, and we really do use all of that information when making decisions.

That being said, if you're feeling understandably nervous about the whole college application process, and you just want to get a rough sense of your likelihood of admission so that you can manage your expectations appropriately, the best thing you can do is compare yourself to the average profile of a student admitted to that school the previous year. This information is available for any school if you look in the right places, but I'll helpfully summarize Oberlin's statistics from last year here.

For the 2010 admitted class:

Number of applications: 6014
Percent Admitted: 33%
Average unweighted GPA: 3.71
(see What's in a GPA? for more information about what this means)
Average test scores:
ACT: 31
SAT Critical Reading: 710
SAT Mathematics: 690
SAT Writing: 710

As far as your chances go, if you're above those averages, your chances are pretty good. If you're below those averages, your chances are less good. Either way, nothing is certain, and you should definitely apply if you're interested. When evaluating your application, we will look at far more than your GPA and test scores--we'll be looking at what classes you were taking and what your teachers have to say about you. We'll read your essays, and look at what activities you've been involved in. We'll try to get a sense of who you are as a person, why you want to come to Oberlin, and if we're a good fit for each other. Those are just some of the things we will look for in your application. We will also compare you to the rest of our applicant pool, and ensure that we enroll a well-balanced class.

So as you probably knew already, it's basically impossible to predict whether or not you will be admitted to Oberlin this year. But if you're looking for a vague sense of likelihood that's guaranteed to be at least as accurate as the opinions of anonymous and uninformed strangers on the internet, try comparing your academic profile to the statistics above.

Note: I will not respond to any comments asking what your chances are!

Responses to this Entry

Do you recalculate or at least put into consideration other grading scales? My school uses an unusually difficult scale (94-100 is an A, 87-94 is B, etc.) and my GPA would be sizably higher if our school was on the ten-point system.

Posted by: Evan on November 13, 2010 6:39 AM

Evan-- I can't exactly answer your question as well as Elizabeth could, but I urge you to check out her previous post, What's in a GPA? which may be able to answer some of your questions.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on November 14, 2010 9:58 PM

Evan, as Ma'ayan said, we do recalculate GPAs to minimize the effect of variations among high school policies. For your particular situation, if the numerical grades (94, etc) appear on your transcript, then we will use those in our recalculation. A 92 would then count as an A on our four-point scale. If your high school only reports the letter grades on your transcript, then we cannot take your high school's different numerical scale into consideration when we recalculate your GPA.

Posted by: Elizabeth on November 15, 2010 10:26 AM

Elizabeth - I always enjoy reading your blogs. Write more often! I had a question after seeing the stats for the 2010 admitted class. Does Oberlin make public the same stats for the group of people who were NOT offered admission? If the difference isn't large on an endpoint, as an example, suppose the average ACT for this group is 29, then can I assume that this endpoint isn't given much weight in the admissions process?


Posted by: Roy on November 22, 2010 3:19 PM

Roy, that's a good question! That would be some interesting information to look at, but I've never seen stats on the people not offered admission. I'm not sure we calculate them, even for our own reference.

Posted by: Elizabeth on November 22, 2010 3:35 PM

Does anyone know what the standard deviations of those data are? I'm curious because technically, one can have scores up to two standard deviations below the mean and still have a relatively good statistical chance.

Posted by: Mekiya Walters on December 2, 2010 9:14 PM

I'm sorry to bombard you with GPA questions because I'm sure you are sick of the obsessed student. But this is just killing me :P. Our school has a system of a 95-100 being an A and a 93-94 being an A-. It appears that your scale at Oberlin (from the "What's in a GPA?" post) counts a 93 as a solid A. That being said, our school only prints the letter grade, but it publicizes the scale. So do you think an A- would count as a solid A?

Posted by: Anonymous on December 7, 2010 5:46 PM

Anon- if the letter grade is the only grade printed on your transcript, we will use that in our GPA calculation. We only adjust grades if your school uses a particularly unique system (such as assigning grades on a 1-6 numerical scale). However, in the example you give, I wouldn't worry too much about the difference. We would count a 93 as a 3.8 in our calculations, and an A- is counted as a 3.7. Receiving a tenth of a point lower in a single class (or several) won't have much on an impact on your GPA overall.

Posted by: Elizabeth on December 8, 2010 9:01 AM

Do demographics really matter in terms of admission? If so, how?

Posted by: Kye on December 8, 2010 5:17 PM

Thank you for the great information, it has helped me stop worrying (for now, at least).
I am a sophomore in Japan, and I was wondering how many students outside of the U.S. apply to Oberlin, and how many of them are accepted.
Also, I go to a private school, but if I do get accepted to Oberlin I won't be able to afford the tuition. Does going to a private school decrease the chances of getting financial aid or a scholarship?
Thank you,

Posted by: Esmë on April 4, 2011 7:14 AM

I was wondering if the admissions takes into account not just the gpa, but if an upward trend in grades is noted. Also do they take into account the applicant's homelife? such as, divorced parents, intense special-needs brother, large family, low income?

Posted by: Francis on July 3, 2011 2:49 PM

Francis, we do take into account trends (upward or downward) in grades in evaluating an applicant's academic preparation. We also take family circumstances into account as part of our holistic review of every candidate as a whole person as well as a student.

Posted by: Elizabeth on July 8, 2011 3:43 PM

How (if used) is the GPA calculated for schools that don't have a high school system and instead have O and A levels (final exams in 11th and 13th grades)?

Posted by: Meher Habib on August 7, 2011 12:53 PM

GPAs for students in A level programs (and other systems used internationally) are calculated by readers who are familiar with those systems and know how to translate them in a meaningful way.

Posted by: Elizabeth on August 8, 2011 8:56 AM

Hi Elizabeth, I have a question about GPA vs. QPA in the evaluation process. My school also uses a 100 scale (93-100 = A, etc.) but it also reports QPA on the transcript. I have heard some schools consider QPA to be a weighted GPA, taking into account honors courses, etc. Not so at our school, which simply calculates the number of hours times the letter grade. In other words, a student might have a 92 average in a class, which is a high B, but the QPA is calculated as 1 hour times 3.0, which makes it a low B. It is not weighted for honors or AP. A "B" grade is a 3, an "A" grade is a 4, etc. So a student might have a 97 average for a year (high A), but their QPA is a 3.3 (a low B). Would Oberlin use the GPA on 100 scale, or the QPA on a 4.0 scale?

Posted by: Elizabeth Also on August 9, 2011 1:34 PM

Elizabeth Also, we recalculate our own unweighted GPA for evaluation purposes (see my entry "What's in a GPA?" for more info). We'll use your school's 100 point scale in our GPA calculations.

Posted by: Elizabeth on August 9, 2011 2:16 PM

I am wondering if you might be able to offer some insight on how different, or otherwise, the GPA/ACT/SAT etc etc stuff is for musicians. In other words, are they likely to be held to the same high academic standards?

Posted by: SZ on August 12, 2011 4:28 PM

SZ, the Conservatory has a completely separate review process, and admission is based primarily on your performance in your audition. They do look at your grades and test scores, but my understanding is that they do not play a large role in determining whether or not to admit you.

Posted by: Elizabeth on August 16, 2011 1:56 PM

Hi,I am an international student who is going to apply for Oberlin. I am in love with the school since I am very interested in both Music and academical studies. I think it will be great if I can be accepted!
So here is a my question. I moved schools twice.I spent two years in a foreign language school in Korea. Then, I moved to a public school in America and stayed there for an year. Finally, I had to move to a private school since non-residents of U.S. are not allowed to be in a public school more than a year. The school that I am currently attending is very small and does not offer any AP courses. Some AP level courses, such as Calculus, are offered, but they are not named as AP courses. My problem is that I already took all of those courses last year(junior year), so I did not have much classes to take this year. So I am currently taking only two courses at my school and taking a Psychology course in a nearby state university. I was allowed to do this since I already had enough credits to graduate.
I am worried that my senior year schedule might not look very rigorous. Maybe I should have taken more courses in the university. What do you think about my senior schedule?

Posted by: Yoo Shin on September 25, 2011 4:24 PM

Hi Yoo Shin,
It's true that your senior year schedule will not look very rigorous. However, it also sounds like you may have taken a very demanding schedule through your junior year, and we understand that switching schools can complicate class selection. We will look at your entire high school record, and evaluate the rigor of your curriculum in the context of what has been available to you at each school. Regardless, three classes is a very light load, and you may want to consider registering for additional classes next semester.

Posted by: Elizabeth on September 27, 2011 8:44 AM

So, I go to a fairly rigorous high school (to repeat the words of every other applicant), and I was wondering how much that will tie in to my application. I'm in a magnet program, and my classes are way more focused and accelerated than at the school I would go to if I went to my home school. How much does it factor in that I applied to such a program and have had harder classes than the majority of kids I went to middle and elementary school with? Sorry if I've just rambled through this, my brain is working on a million last minute school projects right now.

Posted by: Cara on October 2, 2011 12:10 PM

Hi Cara,
The short answer is yes, we take the rigor of your high school into consideration. For a more nuanced answer, see my previous entry, High School Obsessions.

Posted by: Elizabeth on October 3, 2011 8:44 AM

Hi, i'm a new reader :)
I'm only a sophomore in music but hopefully i would like to do music for a living, Oberlin as one of my choices to apply to. I was wondering if the music conservatory's expectations are the same as the regular college? Is this information applied for the conservatory as well? I've been playing the flute since 6th grade and i've had lessons up to 9th grade (hopefully will start up again soon). Though i'm not as academically smarter than my sisters i do still want to have a chance to get into this school. Please respond to my question as soon as you can :) Thanks :)

Posted by: Elena on December 4, 2011 8:34 PM

Hi Elena, welcome to the blog site!
The Conservatory has a completely separate review process, and admission is based primarily on your musical performance in your audition. They do look at your grades and test scores, but my understanding is that they do not play a large role in determining whether or not to admit you.

Posted by: Elizabeth on December 5, 2011 10:07 AM

Hi Elizabeth,
Just found your blog! I'm a parent of an Oberlin candidate and am wondering how much of a role legacy plays in the admissions process. In my son's case, his dad, grandad, 2 great uncles, and 2 great aunts are all Oberlin alum. Will this be taken into consideration when his application is reviewed?
Thanks for your reply.

Posted by: Toni on December 21, 2011 1:24 AM

Hi Toni,
We do take legacy connections into consideration (along with everything else we know about a student), but they don't have a large impact on our decisions.

Posted by: Elizabeth on December 21, 2011 8:40 AM

I applied to Oberlin last fall, and (unfortunately) I wasn't accepted. Since then, however, I've decided that I wan't to take a gap year before attending college, during which I intend to travel, volunteer and learn a new language. I was just wondering - if I were to reapply to Oberlin for when I return, do you think I might have a better chance of getting accepted? Obviously my grades would remain the same (they were very close, I thought), but perhaps because I have the year of worthwhile experience as well as it would be obvious how intent I am on attending Oberlin..

Posted by: Sophia on June 25, 2012 1:27 PM

Elizabeth - I have a burning question about the unweighted GPA portion of the admissions process. My report card for my junior year shows a cumulative, unweighted GPA of 3.46 for my first semester and a 3.86 for my second semester. I scored an "A" in the two college-level (ACC) classes that I took this year. So, does the improvement in my GPA affect your decision at all? Do my two ACC classes help to balance out my low GPA of 3.46 at all? I'd really appreciate any advice you can give me. Thanks!

Posted by: Max on July 30, 2012 1:04 PM

Sophia, I'm responding on Elizabeth's behalf as she's out of the office for a few weeks. I'm glad to hear that you're planning to be so involved during your gap year; however, it's difficult for me to say whether your chances of being admitted during this cycle will be "better" or not -- a lot of the decision will depend on the quality of the rest of this year's applicant pool. I recommend keeping a detailed record of your activities during your gap year, because we'll be interested to learn about what you've chosen to do and why. Best wishes!

Max, I’m responding on Elizabeth’s behalf as she’s out of the office for a few weeks. I believe you’re asking about a GPA trend- over time, your GPA has risen, and it’s risen as the rigor of your courseload has increased. These are absolutely things that the admissions committee discusses as part of the holistic review process. If I’ve misunderstood your question, feel free to contact me directly at liz.hui[at]oberlin.edu.

Posted by: Liz Hui on August 9, 2012 10:32 AM

My first few years of high school were fairly rigorous and successful. I took mostly honors, AP and foreign languages, had a proud transcript, and very high test scores. However, the end of my junior year and well into my senior year the condition of my home life and living situation roughed-up my standing in school quite a bit. To the point where i did not have a home, so i did not graduate from my high school. The next year, when i had secured a job and an apartment, i returned to my community college and completed my courses, earning my high school diploma from there (Not my GED). The frustration has been unwitting to say the least while looking into higher learning institutions to attend after i obtain my associates this year. My blunders in high school have hindered any and almost all chance of attending a school prominent in the levels and areas of study I require to further myself. Currently, i am attending a community college and taking a slew of classes my counselors encouraged to boost my chances of being accepted to some colleges of scientific study in Sweden with whom i have scholarships from already. However, there are a few colleges closer to home in the U.S., including Oberlin which i would very much prefer. I suppose my question to you is (seeing as how your requirements for applicable students usually is listed in terms of exiting high school graduates who retain a certain number of years in completed core classes, and is determinative of the highs school GPA) in the case of a student coming from another college do you take into consideration the transcript of the post high school learning, and to what extent? What is the likeliness of my acceptance in this case, and would even advise me to apply?

Thank you in advance for your time,

Posted by: Rayne on September 30, 2012 5:08 PM

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