Once you have a college list and are ready toembark on the applications process, stop and think: how many colleges do you plan to apply to? Its an important question that we sometimes forget to answer in the rush to write essays and finish making college lists. There is no straight answer to this, but one that needs qualitative reasoning. Can you afford all the colleges you are applying to; does your list have a dream, reach, safety names; do you have the time to apply to all the college (most have supplemental essays and requirements other than the common app); and lastly, do you see yourself in the colleges on your list?
The last one is an important point to focus on. Apply to schools that you actually want to attend, or that you have some reason for wanting to attend. Have you visited the school? Does it have an atmosphere or programs that interest you and suit your needs? Is there something about the curriculum - the courses required of you to graduate - that is either hugely appealing - or might be a real turn-off? Do you even know what’s offered and required at these many schools to which you’re applying?
How will you know any of these things? Each website is a place to start, but websites are sources of information as well as advertisements. They will not give you the low-down on what it’s really like to be a student in these places. These three resources will give you another perspective: 1. College Prowler - tons of statistics and up-to-date student comments about every aspect of the institution. 2. The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, edited by the Yale Daily News - a sassy, student’s-eye view of some 350 colleges and universities, arranged by state. 3. The Best 378 Colleges, full of great stats and quotes from students and administrations about what each school offers. It’s not up to applicants to make the college admissions officers’ lives easier, but it is important for applicants, and their families, to understand the big picture. And it might make sense for high school counseling offices to set limits on how many applications a student can send in. The high schools, after all, have to send transcripts and letters to every college, and teachers are enlisted to write letters of recommendation. There are already limits at some schools.
The mania to apply to more and more and more colleges will either continue and skew the process even more than it’s already skewed, or enough families and administrators will put the brakes on at different points in the process. Here’s hoping that its the latter.