Preparing for College

Elite-College Admission for Twins

Question: My sister and I are identical twins. We are best friends who share everything including GPA and SAT score (our totals are 10 points apart). We're co-valedictorians so far, but I may end up as #2, probably depending on my AP Calculus BC grade. Our extracurricular activities are almost identical too and so is our college list. At first we were both going to apply early action to Harvard, but my parents are afraid that because the admission people will view us as so similar, they would have trouble deciding between us and might be inclined to take neither, since we're so alike. My dad said that one of us should try for Harvard EA and the other for Yale EA, which we both like a lot, too. We could then possibly apply to the other's colleges under regular decision, if we should be lucky enough to get in and decide we want to try to stay together. But my mother says that we might stand a better chance if we apply to the SAME college EA because being clones of each other would make us stand out. What do you recommend? We have a bet going here.

How lucky for you to have a built-in confidante and soul mate! Being an identical twin sounds like a big plus, but it probably won't give you a boost in elite-college admission offices. While I do think that admission officials at many colleges might agree with your mom--that two heads are indeed better than one--competition at the hyper-selective schools is simply too keen. In other words, Ivy League colleges probably won't view being part of a top-performing duo as an admissions "hook."

Thus The Dean must side with Dad (what does he win?). By applying to separate colleges, you are increasing the odds that at least one of the two admission committees will recognize your exceptional qualities (or your sister's ... which are essentially the same as yours) and make an offer of admission. Once either of you is admitted to your EA school, and then the other sibling applies there under Regular Decision, those admission folks will have hard time saying no. It would be difficult for them to justify denying an applicant who is almost a carbon copy (is that a concept your generation understands? :-) ) of one they've already accepted. Moreover, admission committees--even at the rarefied Ivy level--should be somewhat sensitive to family dynamics, which will make it tough to turn away a strong candidate whose twin sister already has her acceptance letter pinned to their shared bulletin board.

Moreover, when those hairsplitting EA decisions are being made, and admission officials see that they've pushed too many applications onto the "In" pile, then they may be inclined to pull out a pair that seem practically stapled together. It's sort of like airlines. When they find they've overbooked and have to bump some passengers, they're more apt to anger one family of six than three families of two. It's sort of the same principle here.

Of course, we'll never know exactly what goes on behind those closed committee doors, and The Dean is only speculating. Don't let "strategizing" play too big a part in your college choices. You and your twin sister need to think carefully about your preferences and goals and about which institution will best meet them. Keep in mind, too, that the Ivy admission process can be confounding and even capricious. Many outstanding students are turned away each year with no apparent deficiencies in their records. We wish you and your sister great success as you complete the admission process, but do remember that there are lots of terrific colleges out there, and many that would be good matches for you will roll out the red carpet--or even two--for you and your twin sister.