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

Browse Successful Application Files

Pomona ‘20

Accepted to Pomona, Swarthmore, Bowdoin, Middlebury, WashU, Vassar, Emory, Kenyon, Wesleyan, Hamilton

Salutations person! My profile includes the awesome details of the ridiculously goodlooking man in the above picture! Plus, a bunch of essays!
Columbia ‘20

Accepted to Columbia, Brown, UPenn, Rice, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UVA, UC Davis, UCSD, UCSC, USC

Hey! I'm a John Jay Scholar at Columbia, and I'm from Los Angeles. I'm planning to major in Art History and do ballet and theater. Hope I can help!
UNC ‘18

Accepted to American, Cornell, Northwestern, Florida, Ohio State, FSU, UNC

UNC '18 from Charlotte, NC.
UC Berkeley ‘20

Accepted to UC Berkeley, Brown, Claremont (CMC), Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Northwestern, Pomona, Stanford, San Diego, Vanderbilt, UCSC, UCSB, UCSD, UCLA, Cal Poly, Cal Poly Pomona, Washington

Los Angeles kid attending UC Berkeley, Class of 2020! Planning on studying business or economics. Go Bears!

New Posts

Student Reviews: Dartmouth College's Location & Culture
Student Reviews: Dartmouth College’s Location & Culture
March 12, 2018

Thinking about applying or enrolling at Dartmouth College? Look beyond Dartmouth’s Ivy League reputation and see what current Dartmouth students have to say about going to school in Hanover. 1. Dartmouth’s Campus & CultureStudent...

The 10 Stages Of Waiting For College Decisions
The 10 Stages Of Waiting For College Decisions
March 08, 2018

Nothing feels more like a judgment of who you are as a person and what you’ve accomplished than college admissions results. As you oscillate between crushing self-doubt and steeled confidence about how your application...

Class of 2022 Regular Decision Notification Dates
Class of 2022 Regular Decision Notification Dates
March 06, 2018

College decisions are drawing closer. With so many different notification dates to keep track of, we’ve put together a list of Class of 2022 release dates to help you manage it all. March 14th, 2018Massachusetts...

Load More Posts