The headlines are similar every year:
"The Unlikely School Where Students Sweep the Ivy League"
"This Essay Got a High-School Senior into 5 Ivy League Schools and Stanford"
"Twins Offered a Combined $1.6 Million in Scholarships After Being Accepted to 56 Colleges"
I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that these headlines are very misleading!
Let's start with the assumption that getting into all the Ivy League colleges should even be a goal. For most students, elements of fit -- urban/suburban/rural, structured/unstructured curriculum, large/larger-- will matter more than the simple fact of membership in a certain athletic conference. Princeton and Penn differ greatly in their surroundings. Columbia and Brown offer diametrically opposite curriculum requirements. And Dartmouth and Cornell vary widely in terms of size. A student who thinks he or she would be happy at any of the Ivies probably hasn't done enough research.
Next, let's combat the notion that an essay "got the student in." The essay is one element in an application package that includes grades, test scores, recommendations and activities. The essay cannot overcome the faults of an otherwise weak application. In this case, it is clear the writer had strong academic credentials, an interest in history and philosophy, and research experience in astronomy. A member of a minority group, possibly low-income, she is probably also an accomplished dancer. The essay itself suggests the many factors that earned her acceptance at these colleges.
Finally, let's examine the case of the twins with 56 college acceptances between them. The headline is intended to be shocking, and the total number of applications certainly is high. But the real shocker is the indiscriminate nature of the college lists. The sister in this example received several full-ride offers to play basketball among her 35 acceptances. The brother, meanwhile, averaged just $7600 per acceptance. What's the right number of applications? That, of course, will depend. A carefully curated list of more than 15 schools might be appropriate for some students looking for merit aid. Eight to ten is a more common number. And for my clients, it's often only one: they gain acceptance to their top-choice college through Early Decision or Early Action.
If you're trophy hunting, a scattershot approach may look appealing. But if you're interested in making a strong case to your best-fit schools (whether or not that includes an Ivy), give me a call. My number is 847-660-8625. Or click on the "Contact Me" button at the bottom of the page.