Random Acts of College Selection

“Friends don’t let friends apply to random colleges that they have no intention of attending or have not done any research as to why they are applying there”


I wish I could figure out a way to shorten this because I totally want to have this printed on bumper stickers, t-shirts, made into a meme – whatever will spread this sentiment most quickly!


Because this has become my pet peeve in the college application process.

We all have pet peeves – things that just bug us.  From runners to waiters, every person, profession or activity has them. 

So I decided to make an initial list of my reasons why "random acts of college selection" really bugs me:

1. The “selective colleges don’t need any additional help to make them harder to get into and more expensive” – reason:

Applying to a bunch of random colleges only helps the COLLEGE, not the student.   Especially in the case of the most competitive, low acceptance rate colleges.  Colleges are all about their “yield rate”.  This is a huge factor in marketing the selectivity of the college. The higher the yield rate, the more the college can charge and the less merit aid they have to give to entice students to apply and enroll. Check out the yield rate for the colleges on this list of "Best Colleges for Merit Aid" and compare that to the list of "US News & World Report 2017 Best Colleges Ranking"

2. The “you’re taking the place of someone who REALLY knows they want to go there” - reason:

This comes from conversations with my students who are frustrated when they hear peers at school say: "I'm applying to all of the Ivies just to see if I get in" or "I'm applying to all of the UC's and I'll research and decide which I like after I see where I get in". 

We know it doesn’t exactly work that way, but it's difficult as a student, to hear that and not think to yourself “what if they get my spot?”  A spot that they would be thrilled to get as opposed to their peer who knows nothing about the school or, worse, has no intention of going if they are accepted.  (Yes, this happens, happily not often, but it does happen).

3. The “coach-approach” - reason:

As a college coach, the essence of how I work with my students is supporting them to explore and discover what is important to them and why and to be able to use that foundation to compare and contrast colleges throughout the months leading up to and during the selection and application period.  Using the “random” approach to apply and then deciding where you want to go doesn’t give the student or the family enough time or opportunity to do this, nor are they able to learn about themselves throughout the process. 

And the colleges KNOW this! 

The most competitive and selective colleges include a creatively written question as part of their supplemental essays.  While it is written a variety of different ways, it is asking the same question:  "Why this college?".  And I LOVE that! 

These colleges know that knowing your “why” is the beginning to create a roadmap for success in college.  This helps the student be more proactive in their first year as they have a foundation for how they want to maximize their experience.

The  more you can answer “why”, the easier it is to list “what” the opportunities are you want to build and “how” you plan to achieve them. 

There are always those instances where a student gets to college and the experience isn’t exactly what they thought or hoped it would be and sometimes, that can’t be determined until you experience it.

But isn’t that even MORE of a reason to apply to colleges, especially the more selective colleges, based on exploring and discovering what is important to you and how well that college will help you to support you to achieve that?