Question: I was wait listed this year and am planning to apply for ED in October. I'll no longer be in high school then but I am planning to retake my A-level exams (considering i follow the Cambridge International Examination system) in October. I've also changed my mind about which field I want to apply to which is why I won't be accepting the admissions offers I did receive. Considering that this means I'll now be applying to Columbia instead of Columbia Engineering how greatly will the timing of my application affect my chances?
I have a 1550 SAT 1 and 770 SAT 2s. As an international candidate I do feel that my inability to properly understand the nuances of the admissions process and my somewhat mediocre essay were what affected me most the first time round. My academic performance too was not as brilliant as I would have liked but I am taking steps to alter that before reapplying. Unfortunately my A-level results won't be out till December. Should I reapply? Or should I cut my losses and try somewhere else?
Only rarely do Ivy League colleges accept an applicant after a gap year if the student was denied or even waitlisted as a senior. Unless there are significant changes in circumstances ... such as a head-spinning gap-year endeavor ... it is highly unlikely that a candidate who was turned down as a senior would be admitted the following fall. So even if you were to amend your choice of major and improve your A-Levels, it's extremely unlikely that this would make a difference. Your best bet is thus to apply to new colleges.
In order to hone in on a list of places where you might be admissible, I strongly suggest that you invest in a “Stats Evaluation" from College Karma.
SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: College Karma is a business I co-founded with my College Confidential colleague Dave Berry. The Stats Eval–-along with other College Karma counseling services-–were provided by College Confidential until 2008. I only recommend a Stats Eval in an “Ask the Dean" column when I think that it could make a critical difference, but I promise you that I don't routinely use “Ask the Dean" to promote my private business! And, in your case, I feel that it's especially apt. In today's hyper-competitive admission world, it can be tough for "rookies" to assess their admission odds at selective colleges, and international students, in particular, often underestimate just how steep those odds can be. That's why an "expert" opinion can go a long way toward putting you on the right track.
You can read about the Stats Eval near the top of the page here: http://www.collegekarma.com/college_counseling/college_counseling.htm
It costs $150 and I assure you that you will get your money's worth. After you complete and submit the Stats Evaluation form, you will receive an assessment of your admission chances at all the colleges you listed on the form along with suggestions of ways to improve those chances, where possible. The Eval report also provides the names of other colleges to consider that should meet your profile and preferences. You will, however, have to estimate your A-Level results since they will not be available by the Early Decision deadlines but—without actual results—the Evaluation won't be as effective as it might be with real test scores. Also, since this will be your second shot at A-levels, even if your scores do improve the colleges will probably not accord these new scores the same respect that they give to first-time-around scores. So do keep these warnings in mind as you decide whether or not you want to proceed with a Stats Eval.
College Karma is also available to help you improve your essay and can assist you with other application needs, providing a stronger understanding of those persnickety admission “nuances!"
My best guess is that Columbia will be out of reach for you if you were to try again, but a Stats Eval might tell another story. Good luck, whatever you decide.