Shopping for College

Apparently when many high school students apply to college now they don’t just apply to the schools they actually want to attend, they basically apply to every possible school with any potential to admit them. Seriously. According to an article by Daniel de Vise in the Washington Post:

Scott Yu applied to every college in the Ivy League, along with Duke, MIT, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Maryland and the New England Conservatory in Boston. For his efforts, the Rockville teen reaped 12 offers of admission. He now faces a not-very-painful choice among Harvard, Yale and MIT.

Yu, a senior in the Science, Mathematics and Computer Science Magnet Program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, represents a new generation of college applicant. Spooked by single-digit admission rates at the top private schools, students sweeten the odds by applying to more of them. And, thus, the applicant pool runneth over.

Apparently 20 percent of American college applicants now apply to seven or more schools. High school guidance counselor used to tell kids to apply to like five schools.

In part this occurs because college applications are now so standardized that students can easily apply to more than one school. The other reason students do this, however, is that admissions to the most selective schools has become so competitive (Princeton, for instance, accepted less than nine percent of applicants), that, for really accomplished high school students, it’s essentially like playing the lottery. Got wait-listed at Dartmouth? Well, try Brown. This new admissions process essentially represents students playing a game and doesn’t have much to do with students’ actual interest.

No one really seems to be hurt by this, though one wonders where students find the money. College applications usually cost like $50 a school.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer