As students finalize their college lists and where they plan to apply "early," they start to hear where their classmates and friends are applying.
This often raises doubts among students and sometimes leads them to question their initial plan. They wonder whether their chances will decrease at a certain college if other students from their high school are applying. When they ask me about it, they will often use the term "quota" to refer to whether or not colleges put a cap on the number of students they will take from a certain high school.
So do colleges have quotas on the number of students they will admit from a particular high school? The answer to this question is just as complicated as the term "quota" is itself.
- How many students apply from the high school that year.
- When they apply (i.e. Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision). For example, students who apply in the Early Decision round tend to get admitted at higher rates than the students who apply Early Action and Regular Decision. Thus, high schools who have a number of Early Decision students applying tend to see better results as a whole in the Early Decision round.
- Whether any "special" cases are being admitted like a recruited athlete, legacy applicant, or other institutional priority in that round of admission.
- How rigorous the curriculum is, how high the grades and test scores are, and how strong the rest of the application for each student is individually and compared to each other from the same high school.
- How many students have been admitted from that high school in the past.
In the meantime, I encourage students to focus on themselves in this moment. If they know that they are objectively competitive for a college and they have put together the strongest application possible, then the rest is out of their hands. Quotas, quirks, and anything else unexpected in the admissions process can raise doubts. But in the end, each student can be sure of one thing—that they have done everything they can to position themselves for success.