By Violet W
Applying for college is a major undertaking. For some students, completing the Common App questions, activity list, personal statement, and the supplemental essays can take several months.
Recently, two trends in college applications have been observed. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of applications over the last year. For example, Common App, one of the largest college application platforms that has partnered with more than 900 schools, saw an average 14.4 percent increase in applications from 2019-2020 to 2021-2022. The University of California received 210,840 first-year applications, a 3.5 percent increase over the previous year.
This brings us to the second trend: Increased competition among prestigious universities. For the class of 2026, Columbia University and Harvard University accepted less than 4 percent of their applicants. In addition, the number of UCLA applicants who graduated in the top 9 percent of their high school class increased by 32 percent.
As a result of the fierce competition, many students began applying to over ten colleges to help beat the odds. Nicole Grees, a college counselor at Moon Prep noted her medical students will usually apply to a total of 30-35 schools with a combination of BS/MD, Ivy League, and other colleges.
However, rather than focusing solely on applying to the ideal elite schools, it is critical to develop a balanced school list. A well-balanced list of reach, target, and safety schools provides students with more options, increases their chances of admission, and creates a backup plan for colleges to which they are most likely to be admitted, while also taking chances on a few dream schools.
Build a Balanced School List
The 5P strategy will help students build a balanced list that focuses on five factors: place, price, program, people, and philosophy.
- Do I want to live in this location?
- Can I afford the cost?
- Does the school provide programs that are relevant to my career goals?
- Do the people and the school share my values?
- What are the average student GPA and test scores?
To begin, create an Excel or Google Doc spreadsheet and research the questions to get started.
Once you have gathered and input the answers, categorize the schools into reach schools, target schools, and safety schools. Aim for 2-3 schools for each category to have a balanced school list.
The acceptance rate is typically lower than 25 percent. A reach school is one where your academic credentials fall below the school’s range for the average or the schools with an acceptance rate of below 10 percent, that is a reach for everyone.
The acceptance rate is 25 percent or above. Your academic credentials fall well within or even exceed the college’s range.
The acceptance rate is at least 40 percent. Your academic credentials fall comfortably above the school’s range for the average.
Schools With No Supplemental Essays
The following schools do not require supplemental essays. Having schools on your list that don’t require supplemental essays gives you more time and energy to apply to more schools and programs.
- Albion College
- Case Western University
- Clemson University
- Colby College
- Connecticut College
- Dillard University
- DePaul University
- DePauw University
- Drexel University
- Fairleigh Dickinson University
- Fordham University
- Grinnell College
- Kent State
- Kenyon College
- Middlebury College
- Muhlenberg College
- New Jersey Institute of Technology
- Northeastern University
- Ohio State University
- Seton Hall University
- Siena College
- Skidmore College
- Spelman College
- Stevens Institute of Technology
- Stony Brook University
- SUNY Binghamton University
- SUNY Buffalo
- University of Alabama
- University of Arkansas
- University of Colorado-Denver
- University of Connecticut
- University of Dayton
- University of Delaware
- University of Denver
- University of Iowa
- University of Minnesota
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- University of New Hampshire
- University of the Pacific
- University of Pittsburgh
- University of St. Thomas
- University of Vermont
- Wesleyan University
(The writer is a College Counselor & Outreach Coordinator at Moonprep.)