I like to think of admissions as a 100 point process. 70-80% of those points will come from a student's GPA. Next comes rigor, is the student challenging themselves in the context of what is available at the high school? Is the student finding avenues of enrichment outside of high school? Selective colleges want students who proactively seek knowledge and experiences, not students who wait for things to be assigned. There is no one thing that gets a student into college, it is the entirety of the student's record during the four years of high school that determines admission. When a parent claims, as was recently reported to me, that attending Berkeley's ADTP got his son into Cal Poly, there is a nugget of truth to the claim. ADTP classes can be reported on the Cal State application, so an A in a class does help the overall GPA. Did this one class outweigh the other elements in the application? No. Another piece of anecdotal information frequently passed on is the student who got into Stanford with a 3.9 and nothing special about them. DOESN'T HAPPEN: YOU JUST DON'T KNOW THE FULL STORY. Also,D3 schools do not give athletic scholarships, so please don't tell me that your daughter just got one.
There actually is some fairness to admissions, and I find solace in that fact. Students who do their best are admitted to colleges where they can thrive and succeed. That may be Boise State or it may be Harvard. I've met successful adults from both schools, and some not so-successful ones as well. It's not where you go, it's what you do with it.
Masland Educational Consulting