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Monday, November 16, 2015
How Many College Applications is Too Many?
In conversation with a friend of mine this week, she mentioned that her recently unemployed spouse has sent out 46 job applications over the past few weeks. He's a highly-qualified tech professional living in a competitive market. Forty-six? I couldn't even fathom rejection on that scale. I mean, he can't possibly expect to get all 46 jobs.
In the changing landscape of college admissions, numbers are starting to matter more. On-line platforms like the Common Application have made it easier to apply to a greater number of universities with the single click of a button. Students can conceivably write a single admission essay and forward the same document to dozens of different universities.
So, is there a magic number of colleges to which a student should apply? Is it better to apply to three colleges or 50? Is there a down side to either?
I don't pretend to have all the answers. It depends in part upon the quality of the research and college counseling that students receive. Students with access to top guidance counselors are obviously at an advantage here. Affluent students also have a leg up in the sense that they can afford to do things like visit out of state campuses.
This kind of front-end research allows students to make more measured decisions. Those students may well be able to narrow their field to a handful of colleges in which they are very interested and to which they are well-suited.
For many other students, college choice is greyer. They may be basing decisions on second-hand information or cursory views of a college website. This makes it harder for students to really assess the school which may be best for them. In that case, I say, cast a wide net (assuming it's affordable-each application usually carries a fee).
The flip-side of this conversation is that more applications make it more difficult for colleges to actually review them. Who knows how technology has squeezed that aspect of the admissions process.
Finally, there are the odds. If you're applying to two dozen schools, you're more likely to get in somewhere; you just need to steel yourself for the inevitable rejection, too.
Which is not a bad life lesson, anyhow.
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