Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fallback excess

by Chad Aldeman, DI editorial writer

My friend applied to 18 law schools this spring. He applied to the 17 highest-ranked schools, then threw a bone to his native Iowa, applying to the UI law school (ranked 22nd) as his 'safety school.' I find this route tacky and informal, not to mention prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. I applied to three schools.

According to a New York Times article published this morning, my approach is horribly old-fashioned. The article looked at the increase in the number of colleges to which high-school seniors are applying. Michael Martin, an 18-year-old from San Juan, Calif., has already been accepted by eight places and rejected at one. He awaits news from 12 more schools. Apparently, this isn't uncommon across the country. Students are routinely applying to 15, 20, even 30 different schools. This pads the number of total applicants at colleges and universities, which they flout as showing high levels of interest in their school.

I oppose this whole scheme, because it causes a logistical nightmare and hurts those kids who either can't afford or refuse to subject themselves to that many applications. The aforementioned Mr. Martin, for example, is waiting until he receives word from all his 21 choices before he makes a final decision. By the time all of the decision letters reach his mailbox, he'll have about a month to decide. Then, the colleges that kept a spot and a possible aid package available for him but won't be honored with his presence will move down their waiting list to the next applicant. And so it continues. Most colleges charge around $50 to apply, high schools $10 for transcripts, and standardized-test companies another $10 to forward scores. This $70 multiplied by Martin's 21 schools totals a hefty $1,470 and doesn't even include the cost of his time. How are underprivileged students to compete with this?

The competitive nature of the college-admissions process has led to a 50 percent increase since 2001 in the number of kids applying to more than 12 schools. There has to be some reason interjected into this process. Some high schools are starting to limit the number of transcripts they will send, but the limits are set and applied arbitrarily. I would hope parents would step in and call for reason, but that clearly isn't happening. Maybe colleges and universities should assemble a database of students to exchange information on applicants. Surely a school would prefer a student who knows in advance he or she wants to go there. Or, maybe, I'm just being naïve. Maybe my 'noble' approach to applications will only hurt me come acceptance time.

No comments: