Application Limits

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Application Limits
By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 07:11 am: Edit

Does your school impose a limit on how many schools your child can apply to? If so, what is their rationale?

Have you imposed a limit on your child (in reality if you have done this, in theory if you are about to?)? If so, how many and why.

I would like to "discuss" this issue with our school GCs, but would like to hear from others first. Our school allows 8 US applications (which can count for many more schools if you apply to UC's), but on top of that you can apply to schools in other countries if you want.

By Frazzled_One (Frazzled_One) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 07:49 am: Edit

The counseling staff at our competitive public hs strongly encourages no more than 9 apps, though exceptions are made all the time. They feel that it's difficult for busy seniors to do a good job with even this many apps. My daughter's GC believes that kids should have honed their lists to 9 schools or fewer - that someone with 15 or 20 apps is going to have a very tough time making a decision come April.

Another reason for encouraging this limitation is that our school does a lot of handholding through the app period. For instance, the school submits the student's app along with the recs, transcript, profile, etc. This means that the student must have his/her completed app in the counseling office no fewer than 10 working days before the college's postmark deadline (add another 2 or 3 days if the due date is when it must be received in the admissions office). Many RD apps this year have a 1/3 deadline - they'll have to be submitted to our counseling center by December 9th, which is 10 days before the beginning of our Christmas holiday.

This can be a pain in the neck, of course, and it takes away from the kids' level of responsibility for the whole process. But it cuts down on those maddening errors that plague so many kids on these boards - transcripts/recs not sent or sent to the wrong place, etc. It's also nice when apps are a done deal before the holidays. I say this now, but I know that the first week of December won't be a pretty one in my house.

By Sybbie719 (Sybbie719) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 08:10 am: Edit

My daughters school gave a limit of 8 for almost all of the same reasons that Frazzled One gave. You must remember that the number of applications X the number of students can genereate a lot of paperwork for teachers who must write a recommendation.

Some teachers are asked more than others, which could generate a lot of work for that particular teacher and you always want their best work. My daughter's enlish teacher who is just a godsend of a teacher, writes very individualized letters which she tailors to each school, has ties to Columbia and Wesleyan, and is just a truly fantastic person gets request from every senior for a recommendation all whom she tries to accomodate which can be time consuming.

When you ask your child to pick schools from the perspective that if only one acceptance came back if he could truly be happy and any of the schools he applied to and would not e focused on where he did not get in the list becomes very short.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 08:32 am: Edit

Ours is a school at which half the kids end up submitting only one application (they apply to national systems where that is how it works)and only one recommendation. As a private school we have a relatively high number of GC for the student population. A fair number of kids apply, and are accepted ED. The teachers are excellent, and I will bet that many are asked to write recommendations, though I am sure some get more requests than others.

Given this, I think the overall workload is not a huge issue. The rationale given is have to decide at some point, you may as well decide before you do all the work to apply ..and... it encourages you to be "realistic" in your search. Also, the school is trying to be "protective" of their applicants. They want to avoid flooding prestigious schools with too many applicants from our school.

I just think if they are willing to process additional applications to Canada or the UK or Australia, then they may as well let my son apply to schools he has visited, does like and would really suit him better.

By Celebrian23 (Celebrian23) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 08:53 am: Edit

My school doesn't limit the # of applications, but everything must be finnished before the holidays, which limits things anyways.

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 09:11 am: Edit

My school does not limit the number of applications. When my older S was applying to college, his GC suggested the 3-3-3 rule: 3 reaches, 3 matches and 3 safeties. My actually applied to 8.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 09:20 am: Edit

Roby, our school does not set limits. But I highly doubt there are kids in our school applying to more than 8 colleges, just by the nature of our high school. The majority of applicants are not looking at some of the same college lists that I see students on this forum going for. I have never heard of local kids applying to huge numbers of colleges, though have read of applicants on these kid forums here who have applied to 20, etc.

While I understand the rationale of the rules some of the schools have that parents here are speaking of, I would not really like the school to impose on us how many schools to apply to as a strict and fast rule. A suggestion, yes. But I would want to feel free to apply to whatever is appropriate in my child's case. And of course, here, there are not many students applying to elite colleges, but if you do, and the odds are slim at the very top for ALL students, then the need to have a bit more applications than the next guy who is not going this route, is more appropriate.

However, even if I would be against the school imposing a limit, I happen to think that a student really need not have over 10, or at most 12 schools, on his or her list. More than that, in my view, indicates a lack of focus in the search. Also, I do not believe any student can give each application the utmost individualized attention if any more than a dozen schools. Same with the visits and interviews. Even for those applying to the most selective colleges, I think a good amount is something like 3-4 reaches, 3 matches and 2 safeties.

My oldest applied to 8 colleges but she also was offered a free ride at our state university so submitted that application, making the total nine. This was a child who had some elite schools on her list. My younger child, applying this fall, has 8 schools on her list. Her situation is a bit different in that one might refer to each school as a reach (I know, I know, sounds totally nuts). But for her field, mostly all of the good programs in it, accept between 5-10% of applicants, so are not a definite. It is a different ballgame. Hopefully, of the 8, some will work out. She had nine on her list but cut one. As well, she must travel to each of her schools to audition. I cannot imagine scheduling that many more auditions. But there are no other schools that she is interested in anyway. So, I guess 8 is a magic number in my house. The oldest ended up at one of her favorites (Brown) and hopefully such a favorable outcome will happen for this child.

So, that is my view and situation.


By Momrath (Momrath) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 09:21 am: Edit

Same school; same dilemma. When my son was applying we tried very hard to limit his list to 8. We kept saying to each other "if only we could add x, or maybe we should jetison y and add z." Then it dawned on us that there was absolutely no good reason why he shouldn't apply to x,y AND z except for the purely artificial limit established by the counseling department. In otherwords, in a process fraught with tension, the school was actually creating more stress!

In the end, our son applied and was accpted ED. Had that not have happened, then we would have had to go to bat for him and challenge the 8 school rule (This was not a pleasant prospect. Afterall, who writes the GC recommendation but the same person who was so insistent that 8 was enough?)

The rationale that was given us at the time was that the colleges knew that the school limited applications and that our kids would hence be taken seriously. From what I could tell there was no basis of fact for this statement. The option to apply to unlimited UCs and non-US schools, also left me nonplussed. Wouldn't those potential acceptances cause just as much last minute anguish?

And since we're mostly applying on line and using the common app (same recs as well) the additional work is minimal.

For kids who are applying to selective colleges and who are not Val, Sals, 1600ers, URM, athletes or all of the above, then 8 just may not be enough. If you've done your homework and spent your time and money visiting, then the individual family should be the one deciding how many applications are appropriate. Smart white kids with very good scores and grades and reasonably interesting EC's have inconsistent results at selective schools. They get into some and don't get into others. It's impossible to predict and there is no reason to pre-edit to such a degree that your child may be eliminating him/herself prematurely from a good option.

Now this could of course be taken to an extreme --I'm not talking about 20 applications including the whole ivy league plus Stanford. What I'm talking about is 10-12 choices, a couple of safeties, 4-5 matches and 4-5 schools that are reaches for most mortals.

By Achat (Achat) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 09:44 am: Edit

Our son's school said they did not have time to process so many applications, so their rule of thumb was 8. The school also had a deadline of around December 20th (don't remember exact date) for submitting all requests and that was practical for them. But we squeezed in one more and my son had to go beg with them to let him apply. I don't know...given the size of our HS and resource constraints, they seemed to suggest 8 but many kids did not stick to 8.

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 09:46 am: Edit

Our school does not limit numbers of applications either. Like others, all information MUST be received before the December break at the latest. Our son applied to 7 schools and I felt that was too many. None were on the Common Application, and the essays were different as well. DD is now a junior and we are encouraging her to apply to no more than 6...5 would be better. 2 reaches, 2 matches, 1 safety (one that is REALLY a safety). I think that what is happening around here is that students pick too many reach schools, or schools that REALLY are reaches that they think are matches. If your safety is really a safety, we think one should be adequate.

By Anxiousmom (Anxiousmom) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 10:11 am: Edit

Our school doesn't limit apps - but the GC don't package all info together. The student has to request transcripts from registrar which are sent directly to the schools. (2$ each). Student sends applications. Student requests recs from teachers and GC, and gives them addressed stamped envelopes to send recs directly to schools. (I believe the smartest thing to do is use the common app rec form, then have them photocopy rec and send them all at once. Even schools that do not accept the common app will sometimes accept recommendations on the common app form, because they know how overworked public school GC and teachers are.) No limits on app numbers at our large public high school.

By Celebrian23 (Celebrian23) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 11:14 am: Edit

I think a big problem, as stated above, is students who think reaches are matches. At some schools, the ivies, and other prestigous insitutions, no one is a match, I agree that one only needs 1 safety, but one true safety, I also think too many students have too many reaches. Having 7 reaches isn't necesary, I think you should have AT LEAST as many matches as safeties,

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 07:39 pm: Edit

I think that neither my son nor we have any illusions. His reaches are reaches, but he is a legacy at 2/3 on his "stratospheric" list(and has numbers in the average ranges for these schools). He could eliminate all 3 of these, end up with a very "nice" list of 8 schools...and then never know if he could have gotten in. Son#1 did this and then got into 7 of 8...and while he is happy where he is, as are we, he wondered aloud in the aftermath if he could have tried another subset of schools. I feel like my son has worked hard, done anything anyone has asked him to do, asked even more of himself, and it is worth a flyer to see. These schools are all not on Common App, but he is not phased by this at all- already has ideas about themes for essays that work for all..

Like many just turned 17 year olds, my son will be a different person on 1 May than he is today. I feel like we are beating a dead horse in debating over and over which schools to put in and why...there are clearly 11 (of the 20 we seriously looked at, including visiting) that strongly appeal- including several safeties.

I think that I am going to go in to the GC with the list of 11, tell him we just couldn't cut it anymore without jeopardy to the amount of time devoted to the next step of the process and see what he says. As many people note above, these seemingly firm limits are sometimes not so firm (I know for a fact they have not been at our school).

I wonder what he will do...he might let it pass without so much as a blink...

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 10:03 pm: Edit

Roby, go for it. Nothing to lose. Try to validate your specific reasons for not letting go of X or Y college. I am sure you can explain the reasoning. Even if he can let you do ten, it is more than the 8 they wanted. As you said, they do not set a limit on the UC schools or the schools in other foreign countries. I think if you have great justification for each school on the list and why, it can't hurt. I still think with 9 or 10 schools, your son should end up with a couple choices if the list is a wise one (which I feel confident you have done).


By Bettina (Bettina) on Monday, September 06, 2004 - 10:19 pm: Edit

At our private school the GC has to manage the application process carefully. He does not want students who aren't very, vary serious about accepting a top school to apply to it, because that student who may just be using the school as a back up if the first 5 don't pan out, may take a slot from someone who had it as a first choice.

The top schools will just take a limited amount of students from each HS. Since the school has only 70 students applying to most of the same places, it can be tough.

By Cangel (Cangel) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 09:23 am: Edit

Our GC packages and proofreads 6 applications, and they must be turned in by Dec 1. But my understanding is that they will supply transcripts and copies of the recommendations for you to mail.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 10:41 am: Edit

Cangel, that would be a nice solution. I'd be happy to do the secretarial work and supply the Fed Ex envelope! I think this is a small issue here, though not the main one.

Bettina, I think the GCs here use some of the same logic, in fact. There are other schools in the region with no limits ,and applications just flood certain schools (guess which) and the admit rates are not good. This is a reasonable issue, in my book, and I think some limit is fine-

Other parents here are on the same wavelength as me. But, of course, we are all a bit reluctant to confront the issue, as the people we need to deal with are also the people who write the letters...

By Momrath (Momrath) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 08:59 pm: Edit

For me the major issue was whose life is it anyway? I think the decision to apply to 3 or 30 lies with the family, not with the highschool.

The whole process of college admissions is extremely stressful. Students and parents just don't need any additional anxiety over whether or not they chose the right 8 or 6 schools, since they have absolutely no control over ultimate admission. I think a kid can deal with rejection, but I for one wouldn't like the idea of never knowing what would have happened if I had only applied. If applying to 10 or 12 allows you to sleep nights and feel that you've given it your best shot, then no one should stop you from doing just that.

I also don't buy that the individual colleges "think better" of a highschool from which they only receive 3 instead of 10 applications. They could care less (or more likely more is better.)

If the intention of limiting applications is to show intense and focused interest, then the counselors should counsel ED. Eliminating the competition just smacks of manipulation to me. I would strongly object to any GC pre-editing my kid from any competition. That's just not his job.

Maybe a limited application policy works at elite prep schools where the GCs engineer who goes where, but at our school where the counselors have no relationship (at least that I am aware of) with the most highly selective colleges it just shows how out of touch they are.

I'm not saying that you get any better education at a college with a 20% acceptance rate than at one with over 30%. I'm also not saying that anybody needs to apply to 30 colleges or that a B student should make a mad thrust for HYP.

What I'm saying is that if your child has the stats, has done the homework and is interested in one or two super-selectives then s/he may as well apply to three or five because admission is highly unpredictable. Repeat the mantra: if you don't apply you won't get in. Beyond that, who knows?

By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 11:08 pm: Edit

Momrath, I second that but could never express it so eloquently! When finaid is an imprtant piece you also have the crap shoot not only of which schools might accept you but of these schools that do who will give aid. It requires a longer list, no matter how much research you have done. It is very difficult to weed out the list. I'm not sure how my D is going to do it she has so many she is considering but I know with my S the process evolved and things fell into place. Guess you have to just go through the process to the other side. I will be glad when this year is over and I can just be someone that interviews for 1 college and helps friends and neighbors.

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