If you are a high-achieving student or a parent of one, you are probably familiar with Chance me threads on College Confidential forums.
Students present their stats and ask opinions from other people on their chances to get accepted to the most selective universities.
However, they are just opinions of other parents and they are not reliable. No one outside the Admissions Office can tell for certain if you will get a yay or nay.
While it is certainly good to seek advice from people who have been there, done that, do not discard the tools that are readily available on the internet and which allow you to develop a more polished and realistic college list.
Below, we will introduce some of those tools and how to better use them.
What are College Chances Calculators?
Also sometimes called college admissions calculators, college chances calculators are designed to estimate a student’s chances of getting accepted into an institution. They work by taking into account the different details provided by the user and evaluating them against historical admissions data.
Many students check out college rankings when coming up with a list of schools to apply to.
It’s true that college rankings can help them find good colleges and universities to consider. It’s also true that college rankings can help determine, to some extent, which schools students are likely to gain admission into, depending on the criteria — selectivity level, cost of attendance, programs offered, etc.
Besides college rankings, many students also use college chances calculators. As the name suggests, these online tools help give you an idea of your chances of receiving an acceptance letter from your dream college or university.
You can easily come across college chances calculators in cyberspace, the majority of which are free to use. However, some of them require the user to create an account beforehand, usually by providing an email and creating a password. But then there are also those that require no registration or login.
When using college chances calculators, there is one very important thing to keep in mind. And it’s none other than the fact that you should take the results these online tools churn out with a grain of salt. As mentioned earlier, college chances calculators cannot give a 100% accurate prediction of your admissions chances.
This is especially true when applying to a school with a holistic admissions policy in which both hard and soft factors are taken into account.
Because soft factors such as admissions essays and recommendation letters are evaluated through a subjective approach, algorithms used by college chances calculators are pretty much useless in this regard.
College Confidential’s Chance Me
Since 2001, College Confidential has been hosting forums on an assortment of topics related to college admissions. Some of them include standardized tests, campus life, financial aid and admissions chances.
Speaking of which, the website has what’s called Chance Me. As the name suggests, it allows you to obtain feedback on your chances of getting accepted into the colleges and universities on your list. Unlike the majority of college chances calculators on the web, Chance Me relies on the input of actual people, not on algorithms.
To use Chance Me, you need to create a College Confidential account first, which is cost-free.
Posting a new thread (by clicking the “+ New Thread Box”) is the next step to take once you already have an account. Choose the “What are My Chances and Matches” in the options box. This will create a template requiring you to provide some important pieces of information, such as:
- Type of high school
- Special factors (first-generation college student, legacy student, student athlete, race, etc.)
- Intended majors
- High school GPA
- Class rank
- Standardized test scores
- College-level coursework
- Awards received
- Extracurricular activities
- Cost constraints or budget available
- Estimated strength of admissions essays and recommendation letters
- Supplemental essays
- List of colleges and universities
- Intended decision plan for each school (Early Action, Early Decision, etc.)
After inputting the details above, all you have to do is post the thread and wait for feedback from people who probably have had experience with the colleges and universities you mentioned.
It’s not all the time that you will get a helpful answer.
If no one has enough time to analyze your post, it’s unlikely that you will get your hands on what you are looking for. For instance, one Chance Me post only had three replies after six months — posts are automatically closed after three months, so someone must have replied before day 90.
Keep in mind that College Confidential’s Chance Me is a work in progress and might probably stay that way.
For instance, it wasn’t too long ago when some participants suggested the inclusion of a budget in the template. Checking out the threads, you will find that many have all kinds of suggestions on how Chance Me should work.
To see how helpful Chance Me is, let’s compare the replies to the results they could have obtained if a different college chances calculator was used.
Here are some of the replies applicant7864 received:
- “Your GPA is pretty low for Dartmouth admissions.”
- “You aren’t likely to be admitted because they reject 95% of applicants…”
- “Just make sure you have a Skidmore or Hobart or similar as backup.”
On the other hand, the following are a few examples of replies kwexell got:
- “Never say never — but 1%.”
- “Unlikely that you will be accepted to Stanford.”
- “… Know that you are an amazing person and any college would be lucky to have you.”
Before we check out another college chances calculator available from another site and use it in figuring out the admissions chances of both applicant7864 and kwexell to their dream schools, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of using College Confidential’s Chance Me and its accurateness:
- Pros: Various information can be used for evaluating one’s admissions chances, people who provide feedback may have experience with the college of choice, asking related questions is possible.
- Cons: Lots of data to provide, some people who offer feedback may not be reliable, not getting any feedback at all is a possibility, post is deleted after 90 days (unless someone comments).
- Accurateness: Average
Related Article: Easiest and Hardest Ivy League Colleges to Get Into
CollegeData’s College Chances
If you want a more traditional-looking college chances calculator, you may try College Chances Admissions Calculator by CollegeData, a free online college advisory service that has been around for over 20 years.
Like College Confidential’s Chance Me, CollegeData’s College Chances Admissions Calculator requires users to create an account first. It’s a good thing that it’s cost-free.
After successfully registering, you can start using the site’s college chances calculator, which is a much faster and easier process than the one by College Confidential.
There are only a total of seven fields to complete, and some of the fields have drop-down options:
- Class Rank – Top 10%, Top 25%, Top 50%, Bottom 50%
- Honors Coursework (in hours) – 0, 1 to 2, 3 to 5, 6 to 7, more than 7
- Test Scores – SAT Mathematics, SAT Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing, ACT Composite Score
- Extracurricular Activities (hours per week) – 0, 1 to 5, 6 to 10, 11 to 15, 16 to 20, More than 20
- Leadership Positions – 0, 1, 2, More than 3
- Achievements – Valedictorian, Class President, National Merit Scholar, Student Government Officer
Before clicking the “Calculate” box, you will also have to indicate if you are planning to apply Early Action or Early Decision and if you wish to save the information you provided to your profile.
CollegeData’s College Chances Admissions Calculator will provide you with a listing of your good bet schools, or institutions where your admission chances are looking good. The schools will be listed alphabetically, and you can check out each one of them by scrolling to the right.
Below your good bet schools, you will find your maybe schools.
Unlike College Confidential’s Chance Me, this college chances calculator will not determine your chances of getting accepted to your chosen schools. Instead, it will give you an idea of your chances of getting acceptance letters from all the colleges and universities in the site’s database.
However, if you are not interested in checking out all your matches, just the ones on your list, you can use the search bar on the top of the listings of your good bet schools and your maybe schools to find the college you like. It will show you where you stand, thus giving you an idea of whether you should send an application to it or another institution.
CollegeData will tell you your problem areas — the more red sections you see, the farther you are from what the school of your choice is looking for. The calculator will also point out your areas of alignment.
Earlier, we talked about applicant7864 and kwexell, the ones who used College Confidential’s Chance Me to know their admissions chances to Dartmouth College and Stanford University, respectively.
Well, I tried inputting the data they provided on College Confidential into CollegeData’s College Chances Admissions Calculator.
Let’s check out applicant7864’s results:
- Chances: Maybe
- Problem areas: Test scores, class rank, achievements
- Areas of alignment: Honors coursework
And the following are kwexell’s results:
- Chances: Maybe
- Problem areas: Honors coursework, test scores, class rank, achievements
- Areas of alignment: None
So, how does CollegeData’s College Chances Admissions Calculator work?
According to the site itself, it uses many data points about students and their target schools. It also uses relevant data from other sources. The various data collected are then considered by the unique algorithm CollegeData has created.
The chances produced by the said algorithm, the site adds, are never 100%. So, in other words, CollegeData’s College Chances Admissions Calculator cannot guarantee you will or will not get into any college.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using CollegeData’s College Chances Admissions Calculator, as well as its accurateness, before we discuss another college chances calculator you may try:
- Pros: Trouble-free to use, provides a listing of good bet schools and maybe schools, indicates problem areas and areas of alignment, generates a list of comparable schools.
- Cons: Not too many factors are taken into account, results can be very vague and at times appear useless in the search for colleges and universities, SAT and ACT scores are both required.
- Accurateness: Below average
Related Article: Best Non-Ivy League Schools Along The East Coast
BigFuture’s College Search
The College Board is the creator and administrator of the SAT. It also has BigFuture, a free online college planning tool designed to support college-bound high schoolers from applying to colleges to their first day on campus.
The site has its own college chances calculator, which you may use in shortlisting colleges and universities.
Before anything else, it’s a must to know that BigFuture’s College Search does not take into account a lot of hard factors, unlike College Confidential’s Chance Me and CollegeData’s College Chances Admissions Calculator.
It’s because of this why the college chances calculator of the site is easier to use but could be very limiting.
For instance, it will not require you to provide your GPA and standardized test scores. Everyone knows that these figures are important considerations, especially when applying to selective colleges and universities.
However, it doesn’t mean that you should look for another college chances calculator. What’s really nice about College Search by BigFuture is that there are four categories and seven filters to choose from. Because of this, you can easily come across institutions with the right fit based on the various options you select.
There are four categories to choose from when searching for the best schools for you:
- Campus Life
If you’re someone who believes that a good social life can spell the difference between completing a degree and flunking out of college, then there’s no doubt that BigFuture’s College Search is a more suitable college chances calculator than the ones being offered by College Confidential and College Data for you.
After choosing one of the four main categories, you will be given a list of colleges and universities. You can sort them alphabetically or by graduation rate or SAT score, which is a huge plus.
You can further tweak the listing generated by choosing and adjusting one or more of the seven filters:
- Campus Life
Note that the four initial categories are also used as filters after choosing any one of them, which means that there is plenty of room for customization of the listing.
BigFuture’s College Search may not look like a traditional college chances calculator, such as the one by College Confidential and CollegeData. However, it has its unique strengths. Here are its pros and cons and accurateness.
- Pros: No registration or login required, various filters are available, different options are found in each filter, the list of colleges can be sorted in a number of ways.
- Cons: Listings generated are not based on hard factors, some users may find the interface complicated due to the availability of tons of options.
- Accurateness: Above average
Common Data Set
Different college chances calculators use different algorithms. It’s because of this why your chances of getting accepted into the same school may vary from one calculator to the other. Sometimes the results are not too statistically different from each other. But other times, the results can vary by miles!
That is why doing the calculations manually may appear more practical and promising.
One way to go about this method is by using Google to search a school’s different admissions factors as well as other pertinent details about it. They range anywhere from the acceptance rate, tuition to the best programs. However, it’s not uncommon for the values to differ from one source on the web to the other.
It’s because of this why you may fail to come up with the most accurate calculation. But fret not because there is a simple solution to this concern, and it’s none other by checking out the Common Data Set (CDS).
Simply put, CDS is the collaborative effort between publishers in the higher education field, including the College Board, US News and Peterson’s.
The goal is to provide college-bound students and their parents with accurate and timely data to facilitate their choice of institutions based on factors that matter to them the most.
The group sends colleges and universities the same core questions for them to answer. The forms schools come up with may look different from each other. However, you will find the same pieces of information across the board.
This is a good thing, especially for someone like you who is on the hunt for an institution with the right fit, because you only have to check out one source rather than different ones. What’s more, you can rest assured that the data before your eyes are accurate because the schools you are planning to apply to are the ones that have provided them.
Here are some of the things you can find on CDS:
- General Information (address, source of institutional control, degrees offered, etc.)
- Enrollment and Persistence (student demographics, number of degrees awarded, graduation rate, etc.)
- Freshman Admission (number of applicants, application requirements, basis of selection, etc.)
- Transfer Admission (number of applicants, application requirements, transfer credit policies, etc.)
- Academic Offerings and Policies (special study options, coursework required, etc.)
- Student Life (percent of undergraduate and graduate students, activities offered, housing type, etc.)
- Annual Expenses (tuition, room and board, required fees, etc.)
- Financial Aid (types of scholarships and grants available, criteria used for awarding aid, etc.)
- Instructional Faculty and Class Size (number of full-time and part-time faculty, students per class, etc.)
- Disciplinary areas of Degrees Conferred (percentage of certificates/degrees awarded per discipline area)
You can think of CDS as your one-stop shop for your college hunting needs!
Because CDS can be extremely detailed, you can evaluate your chances of getting accepted into a college so much better than any college chances calculator out there. However, it’s a must that you know how to use the pieces of information you will come across in the right manner to come up with an accurate result.
So, how do you find the CDS for the school on your list?
All you have to do is type “Common Data Set” or “CDS” in Google’s search bar together with the name of the college or university.
For example, if you are looking for Harvard data google the following:
Harvard University Common Data Set
and you will get links to pdfs with data.
Before we put this article on college chances calculators to an end, let’s check out the pros and cons of using CDS in determining your admissions chances, and the accuracy of this method, too:
- Pros: You can get your hands on just about any admissions-related information, details are 100% accurate as they are provided by the colleges and universities themselves.
- Cons: Tons of information available, which can easily overwhelm some students.
- Accuracy: High
Just Before You Calculate Your College Chances
Don’t just put any college or university on your list. To save your resources and fend off highly avoidable stress and frustration, make sure that you shortlist only schools you could get accepted into.
This is when the perk of using a college chances calculator comes in.
Above, we checked out three different calculators: College Confidential’s Chance Me, CollegeData’s College Chances, and BigFuture’s College Search.
We also talked about how you can do it manually with the help of the Common Data Set. Keep in mind that none of the college chances calculators out there can give a 100% accurate prediction.
Related Article: Getting Into Harvard With a 3.0 GPA
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.