You’ve seen them. In the newspapers and magazines. On Internet search engines and online tutorials. Even on your Twitter feed.

“10 Things You Must Do Before Applying To College”

“7 Myths About FAFSA”

“8 Reasons Why Your SAT Score Matters”

“The 5 Best College Dining Halls”

Yes, along with those inane college rankings (the ones that prompt colleges to extend their application deadlines, so they can have more applications to deny, thus decreasing the acceptance rate, and moving them up in the rankings), the silly lists of “10 Best” (from pizza to tattoo parlors), and sage advice that only seems to matter if there is a number appended to it, persist.

Oh, the humanity!

Truth is, for every 10 things, reasons, myths, bests, whatever, there are at least 10 more of equal or greater import -- or perhaps none at all. So why this craze to predicate a thought or impart wisdom with a numerical value?

It gets your attention. It sells magazines. It triggers that part of your brain that favors order -- a pattern that organizes anything and everything right there in front of you, in 5, 7, or 10 easy steps. Marketing, my friends. Marketing.

They lay out before us a lavish feast bedecked with a well-defined (though pseudo-reasoned) ranking of 1-100 -- be it colleges, restaurants, movies, songs, or nail salons -- and we dive right in, consuming every last morsel.

Lists of things to do, to say, to avoid, to believe -- and we do, as if the Gospel (which Books, as I recall, are also numbered).

To say that I am no fan of rankings or lists -- even those on which The College Whisperer™College Connection, or @GetCollege appear -- is somewhat of an understatement. And no, it isn’t a subconscious result of having had one too many “honeydew lists” set before me through nearly 37 years of marriage.

So, why do such untoward appeals to the paint-by-number crowd stick in my craw? I’ll give you 10 reasons:

  1. The Universe Favors Chaos. So Does College Admissions. If you manage to keep your head while all around you are losing theirs, clearly you have no idea as to what is going on! Why attempt to create order out of the chaos and randomness that is, say, the college admissions process, when, in reality, there is none?
  2. The Numbers Rarely, If Ever, Tell The Whole Story. If a college has an acceptance rate of 4%, it must be impossible to get into, right? And if it’s impossible to get into, it must be a great school, true? It ain’t necessarily so. Colleges routinely inflate the number of applicants in the pool so they may engorge the number of denials. Why do you think they invite everyone and his cousin to apply, via emails, personalized letters, and glossy brochures -- even those who have less than a snowball’s chance of Hell in getting in? It’s a numbers game. Pure and simple. Sure, those application fees are nice, but deny admission to as many of the minions as possible, and you are all but guaranteed a boost in the rankings.
  3. They’re Giving You A Number, And Taking Away Your Name. Test scores. GPAs. Class Rank. Apgar. What does it all mean and where does it all end? Truth be told, if you are applying to a college where your score from a 3-hour test carries more weight than your performance over 4-years, perhaps you are applying to the wrong school!
  4. There Are Lies And Damned Lies. Then There Are Statistics. If they bombard you enough times with numbers and stats, by George, eventually you will begin to believe that there is truth in what they’re saying. Don’t believe everything you read, hear, or have rammed down your throat in a list. They got your attention. Now, separate fact from fiction.
  5. It’s All About The Number Of Students That Enroll. Back in the day, when the college-bound applied to but a handful of schools, there was a reasonable degree of certainty that one of those three or five colleges would be where you would ultimately attend. With students applying to 10, 15, 20, or more colleges, thanks to the likes of Common App and its protégés, what are the odds that any one student will actually enroll in any given college? [I was a Poli Sci major. You do the math!] Colleges need more fresh recruits on the application line to avoid enrollment attrition.
  6. There Is No Safety In Numbers. In days of old, students were told to apply to colleges that essentially fell into three groups -- Reach. Target. Safety. Those days, boys and girls, are long gone. With 2000 freshmen seats to fill and 3000 applicants, you could all but waltz into the class of 1985. After all, the folks in admissions knew that a third of those accepted wouldn’t enroll anyway. And if they did, well, simply throw another bed in the dorm room. Today, in that once safe haven for the applicant who was breathing and had but a faint pulse at time of high school graduation, there is the prospect of competing against 30,000 applicants for the same 2000 seats.
  7. Weighted Grades May Not Mean Much. Talk about grade inflation! If you don’t have a 4.75 GPA on a scale of 4.00, you’re not getting in to that prestigious college. Or maybe you will. One school’s 4.50 is another school’s 3.20. Are you a 4 on your ELA test? How did the Russian judge score you? Rigor of course work. Consistency. Marked improvement over time. These are the attributes that matter. Except when they don’t!
  8. The More The Merrier When It Comes To Extracurricular Activities.After all, Common App let’s you list 10. Naviance? As many as your little heart desires. What’s the reality? Well, most colleges, though by no means all, prefer to see a student who commits to but a few activities regularly, consistently, and with full engagement, rather than the student who tries to do it all, but fails to commit fully to anything.
  9. Being Number 1 On The Waitlist Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get in. Ah, the Waitlist. College admissions purgatory. Where otherwise perfectly good applications go to die. The black hole of the collegiate space-time continuum. Question? Why hold out for a college that simply cannot make up its mind about you? Enroll in a college that has embraced your application, silly supplemental essays and all, and welcomes you with open arms!
  10. You Are So Much More Than A Number! Don’t be fooled by numbers or frightened by figures. In college admissions, having selected colleges during the application process that are the right fit for you -- notwithstanding rankings, self-laudatory pleas from schools far and wide, and numerically-contrived lists enough to numb the mind of an Einstein -- you will be accepted to more than a few great colleges, choosing therefrom the singular college that, for all that matters, will truly be #1!

Call us at COLLEGE CONNECTION at 516-345-8766 with your questions or concerns about the college application and admissions process, financial aid, or anything college. No numbered list required!

Plan. Prepare. PREVAIL!

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