The (Flawed) Art of Chancing In College Admissions

Chancing In College Admissions

Sarish Kasat here, newest member of team Admissionado.

As I’ve been immersing myself into the (scary!) world of forums, one of the practices that I’ve come across more than once that, well, disturbs me is the practice of “chancing”. In chancing, you’ll see a student post a list of their scores and extracurricular activities on an online forum and ask the Internet community to opine on their chances of gaining admission into a particular school. Because, of course, everything on the Internet is posted by credible sources.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stumbled upon some forum with a post string that goes something like this:

Cattywampus3202: Hey guys! I have a 2200 on my SAT, my GPA is 3.6, I play the trumpet in my school band, and I really love playing World of Warcraft. Chance me in getting into Stanford!”

CrazyTurtle5293: Hey Cattywampus3202, I don’t think you’ll be able to get into Stanford, You’ll need a higher SAT score and some more extracurriculars. Also my Paladin is better than your Shaman. I don’t even care if you use BL. Level up, then post here again.”

Cattywampus3202: Thanks CrazyTurtle5293! I definitely won’t be applying to Stanford then. I know it was my dream school, but maybe it just isn’t the right dream for me. Sigh.

Now hold up!


What’s a Paladin?

We can come back to that later, but in all seriousness, based on the information provided, how did CrazyTurtule5293 come to the conclusion that Cattywampus3202 wasn’t a good fit for Stanford? Chancing here, as always, was based on incomplete information. An admissions committee understands that you are an individual – a sum of your experiences. Yes, a part of those experiences include academic statistics, but that doesn’t paint the entire picture of you. That picture, fortunately for you, can’t be painted by a few lines of text on a sub-reddit. It’s up to you to tell the ENTIRE story in the most compelling way you can. Yes some of that includes your GPA and standardized test scores, but it also includes your core self, which comes through more prominently in your letters of recommendation and essays.

Are numbers ever enough? Can they be deceiving? Let’s go through an example with one of my favorite topics, the NFL.

Chance Me: The NFL Episode

Quarterback Height Weight Hand Size 40-yard Dash
A 5’ll” 207lbs 9.75 in 4.68 sec
B 6’0″ 209lbs 10.25 in 4.83 sec
C 6’2″ 225lbs 9.38 in 4.71 sec
D 6’6″ 260libs 9.50 in 4.83 sec

Well we’ve got some quarterback stats from the NFL draft combine. This should be enough to gauge success in the NFL, right?

Let’s see… we take Quarterback D over Quarterback C, right? Quarterback D is huge! His height will help see over the O-line and the weight will keep him strong in the pocket. Quarterback D? Small hands (no Trump jokes). He won’t be able to hold onto the ball on cold and/or rainy days!

Quarterback A vs. Quarterback B? Basically a toss up, right? Sure Quarterback B has bigger hands, but Quarterback A? Look. At. That. SPEED. We’ll be able to roll him out and work some magic!

Agree? Disagree? Having a hard time? You’re not the only one. NFL Franchises drafted both quarterbacks A and D higher than B and C in their respective drafts.

The result?

Quarterback Height Weight Hand Size 40-yard Dash
Johnny Manziel 5’ll” 207lbs 9.75 in 4.68 sec
Drew Brees 6’0″ 209lbs 10.25 in 4.83 sec
Aaron Rodgers 6’2″ 225lbs 9.38 in 4.71 sec
JaMarcus Russell 6’6″ 260libs 9.50 in 4.83 sec

Quarterbacks B and C (Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers) have combined for 2 Super Bowl Championships, 2 Super Bowl MVPs, 2 NFL MVPs, and 14 Pro Bowl appearances. Quarterbacks A and D (Johnny Manziel and JaMarcus Russell)? Let’s not even go there. Stats don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes, athletes, just like college applicants, just have that swag, the “it” factor you won’t find in digits.


After hours of research, millions of dollars, and countless data points, NFL franchises STILL didn’t make the perfect decision on whom to “accept”. How can anyone on a “chancing” forum deliver an educated decision with INFINITELY less (and totally incomplete) data in a matter of minutes? Sorry CrazyTurtle5293, but chancing just doesn’t work.

Need some help with a college application? That’s what we’re here for!

  • I agree. The “what are my chances” section at College Confidential forum is ridiculous. Kids spend too much time worrying about stats and believing what their online “peers” have to say.

    • Hi Evelyn, thanks for taking the time to read and comment! I wholeheartedly agree. There are many great resources out there for students trying to get a better grasp on the admissions process, and most forums, unfortunately, are not one of them. The process itself is quite complex. There are so many moving parts that it is impossible to create an “admissions equation” of sorts where you can plug in variables and calculate.

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