Too Many Applications May Be a Crapshoot

Commentary: Too Many Applications May Be a Crapshoot

…[O]n behalf of college admissions counselors everywhere, help us help you. Make institutional fit a priority when you tour your prospective colleges and flip through college guidebooks this summer. Think about what you need to be successful in the classroom, and what kind of experiences you want to have outside of it. Do you like knowing your teachers personally? Shy away from the 75,000-student flagship with 500 person lecture halls. Do you love spending time hiking in the great outdoors? Then cross the city schools off your list. Looking to break into fashion or film and want to intern as soon as possible? Schools within 10 miles of the city may be your best bet.

Figure out what you need and want now, and apply to five or six schools, max, which offer you most, if not all of it. Forget about trying to get as many acceptances as possible to places that don’t speak to you.

Trust me. Come April, you’ll be glad you did.

It is my genuine hope (pun intended) that every college applicant and their parents read this article. So often, students devote the bulk of their college search to rankings, strategy, and prestige. Instead, I propose that high school juniors and seniors spend time really examining what schools really fit them best.

Here are just a few questions to get you started:

Do you need a core curriculum to help you expand your intellectual horizons?

Do you like small, seminar style classes?

Do you want a college with Division I athletics and lots of camaraderie?

Do you want to attend a religious college?

What are your academic interests? Make sure you look for colleges with academic programs that can satisfy these interests.

Do you want a politically active student body or do politics bore you?

If you find yourself answering any of these questions with a strong “yes” or “no,” then you have found a good place to begin your college search. If you are a diehard atheist who doesn’t enjoy spending all your time arguing, you can probably cross devoutly religious schools off your list (though there are some exceptions here). If you know you want an open curriculum where you can select all of your own classes without fear of having to meet course requirements, you can probably cross University of Chicago and Columbia University off your list. Even though Columbia and Chicago are outstanding schools, they won’t suit your academic and intellectual needs and thus aren’t right for you.

It is this process of exploring what really makes you tick that will help you find the school that’s right for you. It could be Harvard, but it might be St. John’s College. You sure would never find out simply by looking at rankings.

Wondering how many schools you should apply to? Email Hope at or use the comment box below.