Applying to Colleges: When Is Enough, Enough?

APPS“Applications By The Dozen, As Anxious Seniors Hedge College Bets” (written by Ariel Kaminer, The New York Times, 11/16/14) describes the latest mania to sweep the college admissions process: the practice, by some worried seniors, of filing increasing numbers of applications.

With time to visit colleges and to carefully research options at a premium, seniors— faced with club and athletic leadership and schedules, the need for strong senior fall grades, final SAT and ACT test dates, and the need to complete applications— can get so worried that filing an enormous number of applications (the articles cites students who have applied to upwards of 30 colleges) actually seems to make sense.

The thinking seems to be that the prioritizing can be done later, once decisions are in. Subconsciously, too, there seems to be a unfounded notion that applying to lots of colleges improves a student’s chances at any one of them.  Of course, it doesn’t.  In fact, the practice of “over-applying” leads to increased competitiveness, and therefore fewer choices for all.

At Informed Educational Solutions, we guide students to applying to no more that 8-10 colleges. (The number used to be 6-8, but application inflation has hit us, too!) We spend time researching specific departments at colleges being considered, positing that the student’s interests should be weighed heavily in the process, as much– if not more– than prestige.  With the help of our GuidedPath college admission software, we help students to see clearly where they stand in the competition at each college. It is fine to have 1 or maybe 2 “super long shots”, but more than that a student is not doing herself a service.

The college admission process rewards accurate and honest self appraisals, careful analysis of interests and preferences, and a refusal to be absorbed by the hysterical vortex of knee-jerk applications.  Careful, analytical thinking and independent self assessment will lead to the best decisions, as they will throughout life.

Sarah C. Reese

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