Don’t play the reach school lottery

Some students think that the best way to improve their chances of getting in to a highly-selective college is to apply to as many of them possible.  They think that by submitting 10 or 12 or 20 applications to those schools (we call them "reaches" for everyone given that up to 90% of the applicants are rejected), their odds of winning an admission improve dramatically. 

But they don’t.

We work with hundreds of students every year.  And whatever your dream schools are—Harvard, Princeton, Berkeley, Yale, Duke, Georgetown, or any of the others—we’ve had students accepted there.  But in the nearly 11 years we’ve been doing this, not one of our kids who got into those schools got there by playing the lottery and applying to as many as possible. 

Applying to any reach school is always a gamble (you always run the risk of losing in the form of a rejection letter).  But we don’t have a problem with students gambling on a reach school or two.  In fact, we encourage it.  You’ve worked hard and you’ve earned the right to chase your dream schools.  

But if you place all your bets on long shots, you’re going to lose a lot.  And you're going to take too much time away from your applications to other colleges–colleges that are just as good–where your chances of admission are better.  A student who's really worked hard enough to consider the most selective colleges deserves a number of college options when the decisions come back.  You shouldn't be just crossing your fingers hoping that one of fifteen schools says, "Yes." 

The Collegewise students who get into at least one reach school do it by selecting the 1-3 reach schools that are the best matches for them—the ones for which they have a good, ten-minute answer to the question, “Why do you want to attend this school?” 

So find your 1-3 dream schools.  Take your best shot.  But don't don’t apply anywhere “just to see what happens.”  And whatever you do, don't play the reach school lottery.