College Admissions: Not a Numbers Game but One of “Fit”

May 28, 2013

A recent College Planning blog post discusses a number of common mistakes applicants make when applying to college.  One of these mistakes is buying into the misconception that the admissions process is a numbers game and that “the more ‘reach’ schools to which [students] apply, the better are the chances of getting into at least one.”  In reality, the probability of gaining admission is akin to getting a specific number of heads in a row in a series of coin flips; each flip is independent of any other.

Reading the post reminded me of another recent blog post in which the blogger explores a few reasons parents—specifically Asian American parents—are fixated on sending their children to highly ranked, prestigious schools.  One of the reasons she gives is that prestige branding makes Ivy League or Top [insert arbitrary number] colleges seem interchangeable.

As someone who’s heard talk amongst parents about the likelihood of gaining admission to top schools since 7th grade (when I began casually and recreationally studying for the SAT), I definitely agree that many applicants and their parents—especially immigrant parents and parents of would-be first generation college attendees—do not possess a clear understanding of the concept that schools have individual identities and are known for different academic programs, resources and campus cultures.  (Take the difference between national universities and liberal arts colleges for example.  Despite UPenn and Dartmouth both being members of the Ivy League, they’re not necessarily comparable.)  Treating top schools as interchangeable definitely perpetuates the idea that casting a wide net can increase one’s chances of admission at a “good” school.

Applicants would do well to remember that applying arbitrarily to schools is “an exercise in futility, it distracts students from giving quality attention to the applications they submit to colleges that represent the best fits for them.”  The focus should really be on fit since you’ll be spending the next four years of your life at that institution.  I made the mistake of not applying to college with an eye on fit (though, don’t get me wrong, I ended up loving my school).  I just wish I had gone into the process with a better strategy and more of an emphasis on what program was best for me and not merely a “what’s the best school” mentality.  I probably would’ve liked college more and liked it sooner. So, I hope that, through AdmitSee, you’ll do better than me and filter down your options to find the best place for you to spend the best four years of your life.

By: Stephanie Shyu



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