The WORST College Admissions Advice You’ll Ever Get

The WORST College Admissions Advice You’ll Ever Get

Two years ago, one of my seniors insisted that he wanted to apply to more than 12 schools. Because he entered my senior application program later than my other rising seniors, he already had a preliminary college list, which he had personally cultivated over the previous 3-4 years.

After reviewing his choices, I warned him that applying to 12 or more colleges would be a lot of work, especially because after our two sessions, I found out that he wasn’t truly passionate about these colleges.

Keep in mind, most colleges require supplemental essays for each application. These can vary anywhere from one short response to a 500-word essay, asking questions like:

“Why Brown, and why the Brown curriculum?” – 200 words

“What about being a student at Boston University most excites you?” – 250 words

“Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections” – 250 words

Halfway through the application season, he realized that the information he gathered through his initial research was a complete mess. He began to see that his research was surface-level because not only had he not visited most of the colleges he was applying to, he also didn’t have clear reason as to why a particular school would be a good fit for him.

He fell into the trap of applying to as many schools as he could and simply hoping for the best, but this wasn’t his fault because he was GIVEN these recommendations from other counselors and adults.

Here, at Julie Kim Consulting, we call that stretching yourself too thin.

The risk that comes applying to 10+ schools that aren’t even a great fit for you is that there’s a high probability that your applications will suffer.

The 3 most important factors when creating your college list = CLARITY, PASSION, AND THE RIGHT INFORMATION

So let me give you the RIGHT advice:

#1: Do your research thoroughly (we use multiple primary and secondary sources for this process)

#2: Narrow your list down to eight to ten schools. If your child is applying EA, ED, or SCEA, create a solid strategy for each application period.

#3: Reach out to professors, family, friends, or anyone else you can contact who currently attends, or has attended, the schools you are considering. Conduct as many interviews as you can because not everyone who attended a particular school will share the same perspectives. We also utilize LinkedIn (higher response rate!)

#4: Create a college list using your GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and # of AP/IB classes, with 4 categories (Dream, Reach, Possible, and Safety)

#5: Assess your academic and personal fit with EACH college/university (we use our 10-step fit questionnaire for this process)

So why should your son/daughter start on the college list ASAP?

Having worked with 500+ students, I’ve seen some students begin their college research as they write their supplemental essays — this is a HORRIBLE idea and will decrease your child’s chances of getting accepted.

Rather than creating a college list right before senior year, you should try to start as soon as freshman or sophomore year. The creation of this list should be a gradual process because, trust me, along the way, some colleges will be removed from your list, while others will be added.


By Julie Kim Ed.M Harvard University