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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

How Many Apps This Fall?

College-bound Boost their Odds
With competition tougher than ever, students seeking out more 'safety' schools.
By Eric Stern -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Sunday, April 30, 2006
Story appeared in Metro section, Page B1
McClatchy High senior Ben Steiner got acceptance letters, some sprouting ivy, from most of the colleges to which he applied. He plans to enroll at Harvard.

Ben Steiner finished the college application season 8-2-2. He got into eight: Brandeis, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pomona, Reed, Stanford, Washington University in St. Louis and Wesleyan. He was wait-listed at Brown and Williams, and rejected from Duke and Yale.
Even though he is graduating at the top of his class at McClatchy High School, rocked his SATs (2280 out of 2400), plays tennis, lugs the tuba in the band and captains the math team, Steiner didn't consider himself a shoo-in anywhere. That's why he cast a wide net with his applications.
Long gone are the days of applying to three or four colleges.
"You just want to increase your odds," said Steiner, who's off to Harvard in the fall.

May 1st is the deadline for students to accept or decline offers of admission to most colleges, and UCLA researchers say high schoolers are sending off more college applications than ever before. In 1975, only 6 percent of incoming freshman applied to six or more colleges, according to the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute. Last year, it was more than 26 percent.
One reason, according to guidance counselors and admissions directors, is that it's easier to apply. Students aren't sweating dozens of different essays over a typewriter about the most influential person in their life. Most schools use a shared "common application" with a "personal statement" that is sent via e-mail. One application is plenty for all 10 University of California campuses.
But according to students and parents, the numbers of applications also are going up because it's harder to get into the top schools.
"If you apply to 10-plus schools, there's a good chance you'll get lucky with some of them," said Steiner, 17. His applications cost between $40 and $75 each.
His mother (who went to Harvard-Radcliffe) and stepfather (who went to Yale) helped shape Steiner's list, after reading up on how competitive - and uncertain - the college application game has gotten since they went to school.
There are horror stories about kids from East Coast boarding schools not getting onto Ivy League rolls. And for anxious applicants, it's worse when they hear that kids who do get in are winning national competitions and working summers on research projects with university professors.
"You start thinking maybe everybody who applies is like that," said Steiner's mother, Suzy Underwood, a lawyer in the state attorney general's office, where her husband also works. She said her nephew applied to 17 colleges a couple of years ago.
Even his stepfather's legacy didn't put him over the top at Yale. But Steiner did win one of the 2,109 spots offered for the class of 2010 at Harvard, from a pool of 22,753 - a 9.3 percent acceptance rate. School officials say more than 2,600 applicants had scored perfectly on the SAT math or verbal section, and nearly 3,000 were valedictorians.
At UC Berkeley, more than 41,000 students applied this year - a 13 percent jump in applications. The school offered admission to 9,836 - a 24 percent rate, a tighter cutoff than previous years.
"The admitted students include a nationally competitive sailor who has competed in regattas all over the world, an actor, a musician whose band has a contract with an independent record label and plans for a nationally distributed CD, a nationally ranked ballroom dancer and a budding playwright," the university said in a statement.
Margaret Amott, a private college counselor in Sacramento, suggests students apply to eight or nine colleges, limiting it to only three hard-to-reach schools.
She stresses that students need more than straight A's. Even a healthy amount of extra curricular activities, strong recommendations from teachers and solid essays might not be enough.
"Sometimes the world is not fair. Sometimes hard work is not necessarily rewarded," Amott said.
Because of the unpredictability, Sarah Coonley, 18, a senior at McClatchy High, applied to 11 schools
"A lot of it is being scared you're just not going to get in," said Coonley, who is heading to UC Berkeley.
She was also accepted at UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, American University, George Washington University, Lewis and Clark College and Loyola Marymount. But she was turned down by Harvard, Stanford and Yale, and is on the wait list at Georgetown.
"We've seen the highest number of applicants in history," said Richard Shaw, director of admissions and financial aid at Stanford. The school received 22,332 applications and offered admission to 2,430 - a 10.9 percent acceptance rate.
Yale - arguably the toughest school to get into - accepted 8.6 percent of students who applied this year, making offers to only 1,823 students.
"It takes the X factor to get into those schools," said Mike Trainor, a college counselor at Granite Bay and Woodcreek high schools in Roseville.
He recommends students and parents study up on different colleges, then limit applications to six schools, balancing the hard-to-reach picks with "safety" schools.
"Most parents don't realize how tough the competition is. I'll see students who apply to every Ivy League school and Stanford and Berkeley and don't get into any of them," Trainor said. "There's nothing more discouraging than a student getting rejected from eight or nine schools. ... It's devastating to their confidence."

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