Does going to an elite and well known high school improve or hurt his/her chances of getting into a top 10 university?

What follows is my response to this question that I was asked to answer on the website


Which high school you attend and how you compare academically relative to your peers matters, and sometimes is, if not the determining factor, then at least a very important factor in the college admission process. By the word “peers” I mean both those students around the country and the world who are going to apply to the same colleges as you, as well as those students in your school who are applying to these colleges too.

The essay below was written in response to the the following University of Chicago prompt:

The mantis shrimp can perceive both polarized light and multispectral images; they have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Human eyes have color receptors for three colors (red, green, and blue); the mantis shrimp has receptors for sixteen types of color, enabling them to see a spectrum far beyond the capacity of the human brain.

How true is it that Harvard has terrible grade inflation?

This question was originally posted on the website  What follows is my response.

Since there are a number of great answers to this questions already I am simply going to update the data, most of which is 4 years old, using stats just released by Harvard this week. I will then make make a few comments about why the grade inflation at Harvard and other of the most selective colleges might well not be unwarranted.

The following two essays were submitted to US colleges. The first essay was submitted in response to the common application essay prompt. The second was submitted for consideration for scholarships or as a supplemental essay.


Essay 1 

It was a Saturday when our whole family gathered at my grandparents’ home to have our regular dinner and discuss the past week. But, that day was different.

Can you apply to college at the end of your junior year of high school?


It should not come as a surprise that there is not a simple yes or no answer to this question. I will address several different scenarios which might help you.

1. Every year students who are a not insignificant number of juniors in high school apply to colleges and universities.

When a university asks “Why did you choose our university” on their essay, what are the differences if you are applying as an undergraduate versus if you’re applying for a masters to start a new career?

I was first asked a version of this question on the website


I am going to use your case as an example of why it is difficult for me to answer questions like this.

The following four essays were submitted in response to the University of California's Personal Insight prompts.


1.Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

Even though I had been through bone fractures, imperfect grades, this time was way more different.

I totally bullshitted my Stanford essays (all final drafts written under an hour). How did I get in?

This question was originally posted on the website


The problem with affirming, in your question, that you are a bullshitter is that it is hard know if you have stopped bullshitting or not. Your 1 hour claim is stretching my willing suspension of disbelief to its limits. Really? 1 hour? Mirabile dictu.

Most people I interact with define this time of year by March Madness. People hear about upsets, Cinderellas,  chokes, bad calls, flagrant fouls, and, more often than not,  top seeds coming out on top. No, I am not talking about Basketball.

I am talking about the decisions that are sent out from the most selective colleges and universities to students around the world. Those who want to feel good can watch the video of the student who got into 20 top ranked universities in the US with full aid.