I was browsing through my Facebook page today and I ran into this while on the Overseas Association of College Admission Counseling (OACAC) page that I happen to belong to:
I intend on
(sic) applying to 22 colleges. I know the work that is required for this but I am prepared.
It was a quote from a student and the counselors on the board just went to town on this. I thought about it a bit and realized that there was a message here that I want to share with all you Filipino students who are applying to colleges in the US right now. In some schools (Xavier School and ISM come to mind) there is a strict upper limit of 10 colleges where a student can apply to but in others, especially those high schools without any kind of guidance to applying abroad, there really is no limit. But there are many reasons why applying to more than 10 or 12 colleges is a terrible idea. By the way, there is nothing magical about the number 22... it was just the number given by the student.
1. If I only apply to a few colleges (say 10 or so) then what if I don't get into any? This is probably the most common reason why. It's actually an understandable sentiment. If you read magazine articles about college admissions in the US, you'll be convinced that there is a crisis...that US colleges are getting more and more difficult to get into. This is only true for the most elite name brand colleges, say about 100 or so of them. The truth of the matter is getting in is actually easier now, many top notch (not necessarily name brand) institutions take as many as 50% to 80% of their applicants. Some will say that schools that are less selective are not worth attending so why bother with them? I'll address this issue in more detail in a future post but I'll just say right now that selectivity is not equal to quality. Selectivity is only because a lot of kids apply relative to the number of places in the freshman class.
If you take the time to sit and reflect and apply to colleges with a wide range of selectivity or what is known in the business as "reaches", "probables", and "safeties", your admission to a school that you like is guaranteed.
2. If I apply to a lot of elite name brand colleges, maybe I'll get lucky and get into one. You look at the current admission statistics: Harvard has a 5% admission rate and so does Stanford. Penn and Cornell have rates above 10% (I heard a friend call Penn the "easiest" Ivy to get into. I almost spit out my food when I heard that) and you figure I have good grades and good board scores, I should get into at LEAST one. The problem with this attitude is that college admissions is not a lottery although it may seem that way to the uninitiated. When Stanford quotes a 5% admission rate, it doesn't mean YOU have a 5% chance of getting into Stanford. Given your records, you may have a 0% chance of getting in! Or a 100% chance of getting in if you are the child of a rich alumnus who contributes generously on a regular basis or Barack Obama's eldest teenage daughter. A sobering fact: if you take the high school academic record of the 2000 entering freshmen at Harvard and compare that to the academic record of the next 2000 they rejected, you will not find a significant difference. Lesson: apply to the Ivy League or the name brands if you must but volume doesn't guarantee anything.
3. It shows you didn't do your research. A good college search requires research and most students just don't do this. Their preferred method of applying to college is what I like to call the shotgun method. They take a bunch of schools (usually the top ranked schools in US News) and blast their applications and hope that one sticks. And maybe add one or two schools that aren't ranked so highly. If you're lucky, one of those applications will stick and you end up going to that school, probably without much enthusiasm because you didn't get into your "dream" school: Princeton or Stanford. If you do your research carefully and visit colleges, you'll find a number of colleges which are not only good but you are absolutely thrilled about. You'll apply to these five or six schools absolutely positive that you would be deliriously happy at any one of these choices. As long as these schools are within your academic range or at least fall into a range of selectivity, then you can be assured of a deliriously happy ending in April.
4. You can't possibly make a good application to all 22 colleges. Oh sure, you only have to write one personal statement for the Common App anyway, right? But what about the rest of it? Don't forget the supplements and the short answer essays too. If you did your research and are enthused about the school, you will prepare a great application and your answers to those short essay questions (which are just as important as the longer personal statement) will really shine. What do you think of the quality of your application will be when you're working on your 22nd college? The admissions people will know their school is just another potential conquest for you.
5. You're just being a jerk. Sorry, but you are. When you apply to a college you have little or no intention of attending, then you're just making work for the already overworked admissions people. You are also competing...or worse...taking away a spot from someone who really wants to go to that college. If you have no intention of attending, why are you applying? Just to see if you can get in? Collecting acceptance letters for its own sake is called trophy hunting and is a real low rent move.
So do yourself...and others...a favor. Take the time to narrow down your college choices. Spamming your applications just makes the college application process more competitive...and thus more stressful for everyone. With people applying to so many places, colleges are finding it more and more difficult to predict the exact number of people to admit for their freshman class thus making their waiting lists longer. I can understand if this doesn't concern you and you don't care enough to be part of the solution. But for God's sake, don't be a part of the problem too.