What are my chances?
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:
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!