Apply to the Right Schools, Not the Most Schools

How many college applications are you applying to?  Five?  Twelve?  Twenty?

The next question is not “which ones,” but “why?”  In 2010, 23% of seniors applied to six or more schools, up from 13% in 2000, according to a UCLA survey as reported in a Huffington Post article, “Can Less Mean More in Application Race?

As the author states, “it’s become easier for students to over-apply and harder to get into the most selective schools.”  For example, Northwestern received 30,975 applications this year, double that of 2005.  They accepted 18%.

Why so many applications?  For one thing, the Common Application has made it easier and faster to apply, and some schools have even dropped the optional essay.  Another factor is the proliferation of the “fast-track application,” a marketing tool in which high school students receive unsolicited offers from colleges promising no application fee, no essay and a quick response.  It’s hard to resist.

Applying to numerous schools is not a problem in and of itself. However, it can get expensive.  At $40 and up per application, you might be in it for several hundred dollars—or more.  And keep in mind that submitting more applications does not necessarily give you a better chance of being accepted.

What’s the alternative?  Seek out schools that suit you best.  That seems obvious, but it bears repeating.  And be realistic.  How many reach schools are you applying to?  As we said above, Northwestern accepted 18% of its applicants.  That’s less than one in five.  And half of those had a GPA of 4.0 (or higher), earning 1420 or better on the SAT (the equivalent of 32 on the ACT).

Application inflation won’t end any time soon, so we urge you to be selective.  Don’t be dazzled by perceived prestige.  Dig deeper.  Assuming you have good grades, decent test scores and cool extra-curriculars, what can help you stand out in the sea of applicants?

How about a fabulous essay?

While there are no guarantees when it comes to admissions, the essay can illustrate what a unique individual you are.  You just need to write it in your own voice and in your own words.  If you need a boost, Wow Writing Workshop can help.

So spend time on your applications, but also take time for yourself.  Get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather.  Walk the dog.  Go to the beach.  You may even want to put down your cell phone.  You should remember this time of your life as exciting, not traumatic.