As colleges face an avalanche of applications, what can you do to stand out from the crowd?
College applications are up this year, and
the numbers are staggering.
UCLA tops the list with the most applications,
with over 60,000. Columbia University saw a jaw-dropping 32% increase in hopefuls with the acceptance of the Common Application
this year, while other Ivies like Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania all saw double-digit increases. (Other
Ivies faired more modestly.)
For countless years running, the number
of applicants has well outpaced population growth. Even many years when the pool of potential applicants shrank, applications
For some time, growth was attributed to more and
more high school graduates pursuing a college education. However, that number hasn’t moved in quite awhile.
Now, the number is growing because each student is applying to more and more colleges.
part of a vicious cycle. As more students apply, a college can be more selective. As colleges grows more selective, students
must apply to more schools to ensure placement at one. As the applicant pool grows, colleges can become more selective still.
And on and on it goes.
So as you can see, applications aren’t
slowing down, but there is an important consideration here…
you spread yourself thinner applying to a dozen or more schools, you actually can start to decrease your odds. Work on too many
applications, and you won’t have the time to make any of them truly excellent.
Truth is, your core credentials only get you into the discussion – the top schools have plenty of students
who satisfy their GPA and SAT demands – and well exceed them.
emerge from the pack, you’ve got to have an exceptional application in some way. Extra curricular activities used to
be a great separator – and they still are enormously useful. But so many have stellar out-of-class activities, that
most won’t get you noticed the way they would have in the past.
things like your short answers and essays have greater impact than ever – they are one of the few ways your application
can stand out. And, if you are writing 6 essays for 13 applications, it may be difficult to make all of them stand out.
Here’s one strategy: Focus on just a few schools, with a few applications. Choose one
or two “reach” schools. Pick three to five schools where you have a solid shot at admission. Moreover, you may
find you only need one safety school. If you think you need more than one, then you may not have chosen your safety school
By all means, if there are eight colleges you like and they all
accept the same version of the Common Application, go wild. But be careful not to use that as a basis for picking the schools
you apply to. Consider narrowing your choices down by personal fit, and go from there. In today’s hyper-competitive
world, showing a school a lot of interest can be one of the best separators of all.