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Each senior at Camden charter school applied, on average, to more than 45 colleges

UCLA  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

A Camden, N.J., charter school encouraged each one of its seniors to send a lot of college applications, and by a lot, we are talking about A LOT — an average of more than 45 per student. One student sent out more than 70.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in this article that administrators at LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden are proudly highlighting the fact that its seniors sent out a total of more than 5,000 college applications. One student, Abraham Nwaemo, 18, applied to more than 70 colleges and was accepted to at least 52.

Why was this not only permitted but encouraged? The story quotes LEAP officials as saying they wanted to give students as many opportunities as possible and portray the school and city in a positive light. It quoted Khary Golden, LEAP’s college advising chief, as saying:

“It’s my job to put them through this high school-to-higher education transition process, and we do it aggressively. There’s a lot that can be learned by . . . that kind of exposure to higher education, which these students don’t typically get.”

Statistics from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, which issues an annual report on college freshmen, says the percentage of high school seniors who submitted seven or more college applications rose from 9 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2012, dropping to 28 percent in 2012. The latest report on college admissions found that 77 percent of seniors applied to three or more colleges in 2012, up from 61 percent in 1990.

Counselors at some schools now set limits as to how many recommendations and transcripts they will send out — often capping the number at 10.  But at LEAP, the calculation was the more the better.How many colleges should high school seniors apply to? It depends on whom you ask.

The College Board says this on its Web site:

There is no magic number, but five to eight applications are usually enough to ensure that a student is accepted into a suitable institution (depending, of course, on the individual student’s record and circumstances). This number should be made up of a combination of “safety,” “probable” and “reach” colleges.

Allen Grove, the college admissions expert at, writes:

There’s no right answer to this question — I’ve seen recommendations ranging from 3 to 12. If you talk to guidance counselors, you’ll hear stories of students applying to 20 or more schools. The typical advice, and I agree with it, is to apply to 6 to 8 schools. But make sure you choose those schools carefully. This may sound obvious, but if you can’t picture yourself being happy at a school, don’t apply to it.

The National Association of College Admission Counseling says this on its Web site:

Counselors often recommend a range between six and eight colleges to keep a narrow, focused list. They did not pluck those numbers from thin air, so consider the benefits of staying in that range. Using this range, target schools should take up the majority, leaving room for any safety and reach schools you would like to include. Julie Beck, an independent counselor in Eugene (OR), usually recommends one reach, one “safety that you would actually go to,” and three target schools. “That should be enough, if you’ve really done your research,” Beck said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer story quotes  Jonathan Strout, head of guidance at Washington Township High in Gloucester County, as saying this about LEAP’s application record:

“My only concern is that every time you’re accepted to a school that you have absolutely no intention of going to . . . you’re stealing someone else’s dream.”