Recognizing how much the world has changed is key to getting our kids launched right. These days, a half dozen applications may not be enough, as I write in this week’s Reuters column, “How many college applications is too many?” College consultants say there’s a rising level of unpredictability to admissions, which means you may want more than two safety schools, two matches and two reaches.
One issue I didn’t get into for lack of space was the public vs. private school aspect. Private school students typically have access to counselors who are essentially dedicated to getting them into good colleges. These counselors usually stay up to date not only on colleges’ statistics but also on their changing needs (that is, what they’ll be recruiting for next year). Private schools often subscribe to services like Naviance, which help students see exactly where they stand relative to the stats (GPA, class rank, test scores) of a college’s existing student body. With intel like that, private school students (and families who hire private consultants who offer the same services) can get a pretty good idea at where they have a good shot at getting in and where they don’t.
Public school students, by contrast, may be assigned a counselor who has 400 other kids in her caseload plus duties that have nothing to do with college admissions. Families may be on their own in trying to figure out where to apply.
The good news is that most colleges still accept most applicants–the Ivies and other highly selective colleges are a small fraction of the total number of higher learning institutions in the U.S. Also, there are sites such as Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s The College Solution and CollegeData.com to help sort through the options.
Still, if you’re not getting help in winnowing down your application list, it can make sense to err on the side of applying to too many colleges rather than too few.