Shopping for the Best Offer: Some Students in US Apply to Dozens of Colleges

Some high school students are taking a new approach to college admissions by applying to dozens of schools at a time to shop among offers.

Kayla Willis of Westlake High School in Atlanta was accepted to 31 out of the 44 colleges and universities she applied to, receiving more than $1 million in scholarship offers.

After some prompting by her father, Willis tweeted her school portrait with a display of logos of the schools that offered her admission. The tweet was “liked” more than 150,000 times.

Jordan Nixon of Douglasville, Georgia was accepted to 39 schools and raked in $1.6 million in scholarship offers. Although she hasn’t selected a school, Nixon said she knows she wants to study international business, according to local news reports.

Michael Love of Detroit was accepted to 41 schools. Dylan Chidick, whose family has been in and out of homelessness since moving to New Jersey from Trinidad, now has to pick from among the 17 colleges that offered him a spot.

These students and others are still outliers in the practice of applying to numerous colleges, but they may be part of a growing trend.

In 2016, 35 percent of first-time candidates applied to seven or more schools, compared with just 17 percent who applied in 2005 to that many institutions, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

Money a big factor

One reason for the increasing number of applications is the cost of education, and the need to shop for the best financial offer.

“This is tied to the growing cost of college, the need to shop for financial aid awards and merit scholarships, larger economic uncertainties,” said Nicholas Soodik, associate director of the college office at Pingree School in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. “There are real reasons why kids are applying to more schools. It’s not just the hunt for the most prestigious college.”

Soodik noted that his high school seniors at Pingree applied to an average of six colleges and universities this year.

Debbie Prochnow, the college career information coordinator at Blake High School in Maryland, also said members of her class of 2019 applied on average to about six schools each.

“We recommend that kids apply to six to eight and apply to a variety of schools based on selectivity, and include public colleges in Maryland for financial safeties,” Prochnow said, adding that the number is “about the same” as last year’s.

Prochnow said that although a few of her students applied to 15 colleges, “That is not the norm.”

Soodik noted that, at least at his private school, the growth in the average number of applications fell mostly in the early action and early decision programs. Those are applications submitted to colleges in the fall for students who want a reply in December or January, rather than the typical April acceptances or rejections.

Kayla Willis says she will attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, after receiving a full scholarship.

College admissions advisers and students note that application fees to college are not cheap. While the average is $50 per submission, fees can go up to $200, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Willis noted she was diligent in applying for application fee waivers, something that many high school students may not know is available.

“I did not spend a dime on anything! My application fees were waived, no transcript or SAT fees!” she tweeted.


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