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Hurt Me or Help Me?

A female Asian-American applicant with very good grades/scores (Academic Rank 2 at least, maybe AR 1?) wants to know her chances for admissions. She is number 1 in her class and scored 1490 SATs. She writes:

Oh yeah im also a questbridge finalist…so they’ll probably accept the questbridge application…u think not being so well off financially will hurt me or help me?

This applicant would have benefited from better guidance. [She should read EphBlog! — ed. So should they all.] First, she includes an inclusion in “Who’s Who” as an accomplishment, when, in fact, WW is nothing but a scam. Second, she seems unaware that low socioeconomic status helps in elite college admissions, often quite a bit. Third, she probably should have applied early somewhere (but perhaps she did).

Anyway, what is the income cut-off to be included in Questbridge?

QuestBridge has no absolute cut-off for household income. We take many factors into consideration, including the size of a family, parents’ level of education, and any extenuating circumstances or hardships that affect a family’s financial situation.

If you are interested in the College Match, it is important to note that our college partners are specifically hoping to provide scholarships to students who would otherwise have a very difficult time affording college. Last year, the 46 College Match Scholarship recipients had incomes ranging from $0 – $60,000 per year but the range varies from year to year. Also, the 237 students admitted with generous financial aid through the Regular Admissions Process had incomes ranging from $0 – $85,000. Like QuestBridge, our colleges take many factors into consideration when determining the financial needs of a student.

With regard to Williams, absolute income is not the key factor. More important is whether or not the Admissions Office places her in the Socio-Ec 1 or Socio-Ec 2 categories. (It is not clear to me what the differences are between the two, but others things besides simple family income (parental education and jobs, high school quality) matter for that. A representative quote:

[Director of Admissions Dick] Nesbitt was pleased with the increased amount of socioeconomic diversity in the Class of 2009, one of the College’s primary admissions objectives this year. “Early indications [show] more students from lower income quintiles,” he said, based on the admissions office’s classification scheme, which considers parental education and occupation. He had not yet seen final figures on financial aid awarded.

“[This level of] socioeconomic diversity, particularly if extended over four years, will make a significant difference at Williams,” he said. Academic measures such as the SAT, which might normally be expected to decrease as the number of low-income students increases, actually bucked the trend this year. The composite SAT score was up 10 points from last year, a result that Nesbitt called “significant in light of [the additional] low-income students.”

“There was no sacrifice at all to academic quality; it seems to have improved despite the greater economic diversity,” he said.

I covered a fair amount of this socio-ec mumbo-jumbo in my commentary on the Anthony Marx lovefest in Business Week. In any event, I think that our applicant’s chances are good. Williams wants more “poor” students with high SATs.