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Is A 24-College List Unreasonable?

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Replies to: Is A 24-College List Unreasonable?

  • Sue22Sue22 6266 replies113 threads Senior Member
    My problem with this parent's strategy has less to do with the number of schools and more to do with this:
    He isn’t sure whether he wants to major in communications, psychology, business or physical therapy, so we have a few schools on our list for each....But I only want him applying to the schools ranked high for each major.

    The mom is acting as if somehow in the next four or five months the son is going to have a Eureka! moment in which he discovers he wants to spend his life doing one of the things on his list. Considering the fact that few high schools have many, if any, courses in these areas he seems best suited to a college where he can take freshman courses in all four so that he can explore where his interests lie. For instance, choosing the best school for communications in the country isn't going to be wise if he eventually finds he hates communications and can't then transfer majors.
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  • Leigh22Leigh22 689 replies9 threads Member
    It annoys me when you have students applying to schools they have absolutely no interest in attending - and I hear this often. Some define a safety as a school “ I’ll get into, obviously, but I would never attend”. Huh?

    I know a woman who actually paid her kid to apply to two schools the kid had no interest in - but they were both prestigious.
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1444 replies8 threads Senior Member
    There is a huge difference between considering 20+ schools and then actually applying to them. Yes, some essays are recyclable, especially those about non-school specific subjects, but if you can recycle a school specific essay, it probably means it is pretty generic.

    The better strategy seems to be to apply to EA/ED and/or rolling admissions schools first because if you get in to at least 1 of those, you can eliminate any schools that are further down the list. You will save at least the application and official test score report fees if not the work involved in specific essays.

    @seniorx2019, congrats on getting into multiple schools at this point. I hope you have done the right thing and withdrawn the app's of the schools you now have 0 interest in so your potential slot is available to some other applicant who really wants to go there.
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  • dadof4kidsdadof4kids 695 replies68 threads Member
    My 2 oldest completed a total of 3 applications between them. S1 applied to one out of state, plus the in-state flagship that was more affordable if he didn't get a good scholarship at his top choice. Both were safeties, but that was what he wanted. S2 was a recruited athlete, so he only did one app ED.

    For the majority of people here, including D21 for my family, the above scenarios are not realistic. I love looking at this stuff and helping her figure things out. But I'm dreading the application process. She will be one of the endless "average excellent" students. She has a couple of things that I think differentiate her pretty well. But if a school already has a few students like her on campus or in the offer pile, she will just be one of the many average excellent students hoping for a small number of spots.

    It's really a dilemma. She doesn't want to fill out 20 apps, and I certainly don't want to help her with it or pay those fees. But I'm struggling to see a way around it. Nowhere she wants to go will be easy to get into. So if you are applying to schools with quirky admissions and sub 20% acceptance rates (which is a pretty big universe of schools) I don't know how else to have a reasonable shot at an acceptance. She will be happy at a multitude of different places, so I don't think it makes sense to decide on 1 or 2 elite institutions and not apply to any others. She will do some screening and not just blindly apply to all the Ivies (Columbia is a particularly bad fit I think). But could I see her at Harvard, Brown, Williams, Davidson, Bates, Hamilton or Rochester and being happy? Yep. And if she wants into at least one of them I don't know how you justify not applying to all of them.

    It also makes it difficult to tour the colleges frankly. I don't want her to get super excited about anyone, because really your odds at any particular institution are not good. We have only done one tour so far (WashU in StL) when we were in StL already. I could see her bouncing back and forth between getting excited and tamping down the enthusiasm since really no one short of a recruited athlete has a great chance at admission. At least she gets it. I'm guessing we fill out several apps to selective schools, and then 1-2 safeties. Finding a safety that she is excited about and one acceptable to Mom may be a trick. Thus far they have 0 in common on their safety list.
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  • Sue22Sue22 6266 replies113 threads Senior Member
    We were able to cull some schools from the list by visiting. In particular, we cut match schools our kids liked less than their likelies. On paper some of them looked like a good fit but once on campus the kids just didn't feel the vibe.

    I think it makes sense to apply to a lot of schools under the following scenarios:

    1. Kid has Ivy League level stats but no hook, i.e., they're not a recruited athlete or legacy. Some of these kids can have a hard time finding true match schools because one less than glowing rec. or a couple of misplaced words on an essay can tank an application to schools with single digit acceptance rates. When all your match schools are also reach schools you may have to have a larger (although still curated) application list.

    2. Kid is wildly uneven or has something to be explained in their background. These kids can receive a mailbox full of acceptances or one full of rejections.

    3. Kid needs substantial merit aid and couldn't attend without it. A family that needs to be able to compare multiple offers may need to go outside the standard 2 likelies, 4 matches, 2 reaches parameters.

    4. Kid is looking at a lot of schools with shared apps. that don't require individual additional essays and/or application fees. California publics or Common App schools which require only a click to send would fall under this category. I don't believe in the scattershot approach, but I do think it's okay to add a couple of schools similar to others on your list if it's easy and inexpensive.

    I have a #2 kid, and although so far she's received 7 acceptances, 1 WL, 0 rejections we were prepared for the opposite. She had very particular parameters. She only applied to 9 schools but if she had been a more standard student the list would have been even shorter. Some of the schools were "Meh, good enough" schools for which we would all have had to gin up some enthusiasm. They only made it onto the list because a kid who writes the CA essay on her LD needs to be prepared for a lot of thin envelopes.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78639 replies697 threads Senior Member
    edited February 26
    Sue22 wrote:
    3. Kid needs substantial merit aid and couldn't attend without it. A family that needs to be able to compare multiple offers may need to go outside the standard 2 likelies, 4 matches, 2 reaches parameters.

    A student in this situation needs to assess safety/likely/match/reach based on the merit scholarship needed for affordability, not admission.

    While automatic-for-stats merit scholarships can still be safeties if the student has the stats, most competitive merit scholarships should be considered reaches, since there tends to be little information on how competitive they are (if they are at colleges where admission is a reach, those colleges should be considered extreme reaches for the scholarships).

    Some such students may have only safeties (automatic-for-stats merit scholarships) or reaches (competitive merit scholarships).
    edited February 26
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78639 replies697 threads Senior Member
    Leigh22 wrote:
    It annoys me when you have students applying to schools they have absolutely no interest in attending - and I hear this often. Some define a safety as a school “ I’ll get into, obviously, but I would never attend”. Huh?

    And then we get threads from students who in April have affordable admissions only to the "safeties" that they do not want to attend.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7636 replies61 threads Senior Member
    @dadof4kids - Your daughter may be able to cull her list when she starts visiting. We visited 15 schools and my daughter ended up applying to just 8. 1 high reach, 1 reach, 4 matches, and 2 safeties. What looked great on paper, or similar to schools she already loved, didn't always translate in person.

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  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1362 replies51 threads Senior Member
    My D last year was too busy to do that many applications, even though she had her common app essay done b4 Fall semester of senior year. Also, I think quality is more important than quantity and I wouldn't want to pay that many app fees.

    IMHO, figure out some criteria that will bring it down to 12 to 14 tops. Much easier and better to knock that many out of the park and than do 20+ apps that are more plug and play...
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  • seniorx2019seniorx2019 10 replies0 threads New Member
    edited March 1
    @BKSquared I didn't withdraw my applications from some schools because I paid the application fee and I'm not exactly sure where I want to commit yet. I understand your point, in terms of giving other people chances, but I also don't feel like I have to decide where I'm going right now until I see FA/merit aid options from my RD list. I think especially for applicants who do have financial considerations having a long list can be extremely helpful if you want options.


    Most of the schools I applied to that I had "little interest" in, I realized I didn't like after I applied. Most, if not 17 of my schools, I really loved and were good fits in different ways. I think when you apply you're not going to know everything about what you want to do, and your opinions can change a lot as your going through the actual process. I agree that applying to safeties you have no interest in attending is problematic, but I'm talking about top tier colleges that I now am less interested in because of major/program/community aspects I realized through interviews and official visits.
    edited March 1
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  • seniorx2019seniorx2019 10 replies0 threads New Member
    edited March 1
    Also, coming from a senior--you truly can recycle essays. Maybe not the Why X school? essay, but you can write an outline that you use for most schools. The supplement I wrote for my RD school was fantastic and happened to fit most of the prompts for many of my schools. Yes, you do end up writing a lot of supplements, but one of my friends who goes to Yale now and also applied to 20 schools said applying to 20 schools was one of the best investments they made. I understand where people are coming from in advising a short list, but with the increasing competitiveness of college apps, applying to 20 schools (if the apps are good) could increase your chances of getting better aid/a school that you like more. I honestly think people are so judgemental when it comes to lists/CC in general, talk to your college counselor, your parents, seniors at your school, and make the choice for yourself.
    edited March 1
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1444 replies8 threads Senior Member
    Waiting on financial aid/merit scholarship notifications are perfectly reasonable if those schools are truly in play. I was referring to the "0 interest" schools.
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  • eb23282eb23282 584 replies16 threads Member
    Unreasonable? No
    Unnecessary? I think so
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  • NEPatsGirlNEPatsGirl 2845 replies106 threads Senior Member
    My D applied to 19 schools for 2015 admission. She did ED one school and had she been admitted that would have been the end of it, but she was not. She did have EA offers and an early write but, with the exception of the instate flagship safety, they were outside our budget (set at price of said flagship). Of the 19 schools I think there were two she really didn't want to attend but would have had to consider for financial reasons.

    We talked about culling the list and there were at least 5 schools I thought she should take of, either because they were likely not a great "fit" or by all accounts they would not come in under budget. I'll admit that our financial picture was not easy to determine -- her bio Dad/stepmother had substantial income and my husband and I owned a business so our EFC could not be trusted. All schools but the one instate were profile schools.

    In the end, had she taken the schools off the list that I was questioning, she would not be where she is today. This school in particular was one that I was adamant she would never get enough $$ and yet, it came in with the lowest COA by far, no other school came close. So, say what you will, but for us it was well worth the application fees and other expenses. And yes, she wrote several, maybe a dozen? essays and spent every weekend on them but she knew how important this was and she was determined to go to a private LAC if at all possible.
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  • sunnyschoolsunnyschool 1232 replies31 threads Senior Member
    edited March 4
    This is when it gets ridiculous....and starts to impact other students at the 23 schools the student cannot attend. I think there should be a limit - maybe 10 or 12 schools?
    edited March 4
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  • chetahchetah 22 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Amazing article!
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29606 replies58 threads Senior Member
    Where is the point that it becomes unreasonable? Why 24? How about 20? Or 23, for that matter. Or 50 Something like that young woman featured in the news? Some schools place limits. How firmly they will stick to those limits if there is pushback from parents, I don’t know.

    My youngest applied to 8 colleges early. He was done in December, he told me once he got his first EA acceptance. If his EDschool accepted him, he was pre-committed. But it did not, he was going to go that EA school. He was fine with his applications.

    He had had a list of RD schools he was going work on, if he did not get into the ED school and it had 24 or so schools on it. Not that he’d apply to all of the schools on that list. The composition of the working list would depend on which schools accepted him in the early cycle. As it turned out, the list ended up empty.

    But early in the app process, he wanted to apply to a half dozen or so highly selective schools just as lottery tickets. Then a group of schools also very selective. Then a group of likely/match schools that he really liked that did not have Early Action or rolling admissions.

    My other son had SAT scores in the lower quartile of the schools he liked. But his grades and course rigor were high. We cut a wide swath getting a list together. He liked the larger state schools that I felt very unlikely to take him because of their formula admissions. But he had about a half dozen on his list along with Fair test schools and Catholic schools and a few long shots. It can add up fast


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