The Key Conversation in Application Decisions

person-woman-hand-smartphone.jpgAs I was sitting at the nail salon getting my manicure (remember how important self-care is everyone??) I couldn’t help but overhear the woman next to me on the phone having a discussion of college admission decisions. “Jason had a 35 on his ACT, you know out of 36, and did not get into UCSD, UCSB and UCLA.” Her tone was nervous, anxious, she got another call and switched to a conversation of insurance which I promptly tuned out. It took every ounce of me not to dive into a conversation of “did you know.” 

Did you know that it’s not just the test score?

Did you know that the UC’s are some of the most applied to universities in the world? 

Did you know UC’s as a whole this year say gains as much as 7% in their California applicants alone?

Did you know that there are SO many accessible options beyond the UC system? 

But I held back. Because, well, it was time for self-care, and I didn’t want to interrupt her conversation. Conversations like hers are not alone. With a bulk of decisions rolling out I can almost hear the conversations of, “so and so got in with a lower test score and how did so and so NOT get in.” Conversations that leave families and students feeling slighted and often confused. Conversations that lead to a sense of hopelessness in the college admission process. But I challenge you to CHANGE that conversation. 

Conversations that start with “I heard” or ones that target the unfairness of the admission process in a biased way such as solely focusing on one fact and not the rest are not only pointless, but often harmful. They’re unnecessary. Because the truth is you may not, most likely do not, have all of the information.

Admissions varies on the student (personally, academically, socially, characteristically, etc.) and varies on the college (institutional priorities, application numbers, selectivity, the applicant pool itself, the major, etc.). The truth is, yes, the UC’s are an incredibly widely applied to university system where a 35 ACT does not guarantee you a spot. But with 9 undergraduate campuses it makes up for a TEENY percentage of the number of four-year universities out there.


Think of private universities, out-of-state, international. Universities that have things like honors colleges adding academic rigor for a student looking for more challenge, universities that offer out-of-state students tuition discounts to increase geographic diversity. Universities that offer unique programs and small class sizes. Universities that accept more than 50% of its applicants.

What makes a university “good” is not its selectivity. As decisions roll out, remember that. Parents HELP your son or daughter remember that. Juniors, remember that when you begin your college search. Remember that you will THRIVE in an environment that ALLOWS you to thrive. And that determines success, not the name on the diploma alone.

Did you know the average acceptance rate to get into colleges nationally is over 63%? 63%!! SOURCE Colleges WANT students. And yes, there will be selective institutions where a 35 is the norm and doesn’t get you in always, but I leave you with this:

Widen your lens. Widen it beyond the phone conversation of “I heard.” Widen it beyond the few universities that you believe are the ONLY universities that lead to success. Widen it beyond your admission decision. Because success in life does not start with a slighted view and it certainly doesn’t start with “I heard.”

Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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