Q: I am a junior and all I hear about is how impossible it is to get into popular colleges. A lot of my friends who are seniors did not get accepted to their first-choice colleges and are going to have to attend other schools. This has made me very nervous about what's going to happen to me next year. What do you suggest?
A: As I am sure you have heard, part of the problem is the Common Application, which is both a blessing and a curse. The Common App makes it easy to apply to multiple schools, and the blessing is that it enables students to do this while saving them the bother of writing the same information (except for the essay supplements) over and over again. The curse is, the larger volume of applications sent as a result of the Common Application makes being accepted to any school much more difficult.
Another part of the problem is that students persist in applying to the same colleges as their classmates. They have been advised to diversify the geographical scope of their applications, but they don't listen.
I assume, since you are writing to this particular column, that you live in New York City. It seems that everyone in the Northeast United States wants to go to college in the Northeast. And students in other parts of the U.S. want to come here too. No wonder the application tallies at colleges in that area are soaring, and admission is becoming more competitive—more people are competing for a limited number of admission spots.
And yet really, really good schools in other parts of the country are not being considered. These schools are getting lots of applications, mostly of course, because they are fine institutions. But they are not getting the overwhelming numbers that some Northeast schools are receiving. In the school where I work, which is in Manhattan, NOT ONE STUDENT has applied to the following (and these are just a sampling of many fine options out there):
• The University of Arizona
• Bowling Green State(Ohio)
• Carleton College (Minnesota)
• Colorado College
• University of Dayton (Ohio)
• Earlham College (Indiana)
• Eckerd College (Florida)
• Grinnell College (Iowa).
• The University of Iowa
• Lawrence University (Wisconsin)
• Lewis & Clark College (Oregon)
• Ohio Wesleyan University
• The Ohio State University
• Santa Clara University (California)
• The University of Texas – Austin
I think the point is clear: look seriously at the many fine schools that are outside of your geographical comfort zone. You will expand your horizons while also expanding your chances of admission. Please remember, though, that admission is never guaranteed. You still need appropriate credentials.
When you and your college counselor create your college list for applying next year, be sure to explore schools in diverse locations.Also take a serious look at some of the less-frequently-chosen branches of SUNY: Plattsburgh, Cortland, Fredonia and Oswego.