Monthly Archives: December 2014

You really don’t need to apply to that many colleges. Just stop

By Max Ehrenfreund

Yeah, Stanford's pretty, I guess. But you'll be totally O.K. if you don't get in. (AP/Paul Sakuma)

Sure, Stanford’s pretty, but you’ll be totally O.K. if you don’t get in. (AP/Paul Sakuma)

Seniors in high school are losing their minds filling out college applications. The number of students applying to at least seven colleges has more than tripled since 1990, according to one survey.

The biggest factor behind the trend is likely that students and their families have little way of accurately assessing the quality of the education a school offers. A vague notion of prestige or exclusivity is the metric that many students seem to base their decisions on. Many decide to apply to several to try to up the odds of getting into one.

But they may be actually playing their odds incorrectly.

Counselors typically advise seniors to develop lists of “safety” schools, “reach” schools, and schools that are somewhere in the middle. For the staff of Parchment, a company that provides a range of services to college-bound seniors, that strategy often isn’t the best one.

Matthew Pittinsky, the chief executive officer, compares applying to college to assembling a portfolio of financial investments. By balancing risks against one another, students can minimize the number of applications he or she has to complete. “You can actually have a portfolio weighted toward ‘stretch’ schools, and still have a surprisingly high degree of confidence that you will be accepted to at least one school on your list,” Pittinsky said.

If you’re applying to selective schools, you can’t completely eliminate the chance that you are rejected everywhere. Each additional application you complete contributes less and less to your chances of getting in somewhere. That additional application is only useful to you if none of your others are accepted — which, if you’ve already done several, is less likely.

If your goal is to get into the most …read more