It’s puzzling how some students make it to prime universities, while your application on the other hand, gets rejected. You wonder even more, especially when you know (modesty aside) that academically speaking, you are better than that person. That can only be attributed to one explanation: Universities are not all after the intellectually-gifted applicants.
Figures don’t impress that much. You got a perfect score on your SAT and ACT. You also graduated with honors. Still, those accomplishments are not enough for your application to be approved by panelists. There are still other components that matter aside from the figures that prove you are indeed smart. Admission essays, recommendation letters and extracurricular involvement also count. Universities, nowadays, do not only want students that can answer complex mathematical problems manually. They want those who recognize their passions and are working hard to pursue them. They want those that care not only about themselves, but also the community they are in.
Panelists don’t rank applicants. With the thousand applications they have to review, admission officials no longer have the time to group students according to GPAs and SAT scores. And even if they have ample time, still, they would not do so. They look into your grades for a minute or so, sometimes even only for a few seconds, to see whether you can keep up with the classes, and that you would not fail. And that’s it. After officials have seen your grades, then again you are on the same playing field as the rest of other applicants. In short, the admission process is not about the university arranging applicants according to grades, picking the top ten percent and then discarding those at the bottom of the list.
Character appeals more. Universities desire to admit students that would make their community more diverse. They want aspiring leaders, innovators, national athletes and motivational speakers. Do not just invest on your grades. Join organizations whose purpose you support. And do not move from one to another every year. This is not about the quantity. Show rather the developments you have made from being a member of the group, to being voted as among the officials. Also, join outreach activities during summer so you can beef up your application.
Do not feel jealous, If that is your friend who got accepted, then you should be happy more than anything else. Instead of fostering grudge, it is best that you work on your other applications, and work on compensating for what you may be lacking. This is for your benefit especially if you are waitlisted and are looking forward to be given another chance by a university of your choice.