Did This College Admissions' Junkie Play Fair?

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AGAINST by Laura Moran

To most people, applying to 18 colleges probably sounds like overkill. But, not to Lukasz Zbylut, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was accepted to all seven Ivy League schools, as well as top-notch institutions like Stanford and New York University to rack up a total of 17 college choices. (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sent his single rejection letter.) And, while he chose Harvard as his destination for the fall, he said no to 16 schools that most high school seniors only dream of applying to, let alone attending.


While Zbylut, who is the valedictorian of his class at New Utrecht High School, and a Polish immigrant who came to this country five years ago and taught himself English, accomplished a dream and bragging rights, he may have inadvertently crushed the hopes of others like him around the country.

According to Bev Taylor, an independent college consultant with The Ivy Coach, since Zbylut was offered a place at each of the schools, he took that offer away from other students with dreams to attend one of the many schools on his list. She says, “That’s why it is so unfair for kids to do something like that without doing their homework first.”

It is no secret that college admissions are becoming more competitive every year, prompting students to apply to a wide number of schools in hopes of gaining acceptance to at least one. But, a little research and help from counselors would have narrowed Zyblut’s search and opened up space for other students.

Taylor says that Zyblut is a college admissions officer’s dream. “He’s a first generation college attendee whose parents are blue collar workers. Admissions counselors were probably itching in their seat when they read his application.” Therefore, he and his counselors should’ve known he would get into these schools and narrowed his applications to schools that he had a real intention of attending.

Otherwise, he is simply collecting trophies, which according to Taylor is inappropriate. “In some cases a student feels entitled to getting the acceptance letters because they have worked so hard up until that point. But, it is a horrible thing to want to collect trophies.”

Most counselors suggest that students apply to between six and eight schools; with some being safe bets, some as reaches and some as possibilities. Visiting the schools and doing research online can often help students narrow their choices down to the few that they actually want to apply to.

Zbylut should have been more considerate to his fellow high school seniors who weren’t as lucky to receive 16 acceptance letters.

For: Apply away: All you have to lose is time and money
By Jessica Wakeman

“It’s called trophy-hunting,” says Rachel Toor, a private college counselor and author of Admissions Confidential: An Insider’s Account of the Elite College Selection Process. Applying to 18 schools is a bit high for a student, she says, “but not that high.” The problem she sees is kids just don’t know their odds of getting in, so they cover themselves by applying to more schools.

Toor says she usually counsels students to apply to nine schools: three safety schools, three that are stretches, and three that are reaches.

Even nine colleges seems like a lot to me, unless your parents’ income qualifies you for a fee waiver, it costs money to send in an application. (My father balked at a school with a $75 application fee and told me, “You’re not going to get in there, anyway!”) Let’s say, hypothetically applying to these 18 schools cost Lukasz Zbylut , or more likely his parents, $500. That’s a lot of dough!

But, college admissions are getting so competitive, Harvard, Yale and Columbia made records by only accepting 7.1%, 8.3% and 8.7% of applicants, respectively. With the odds against you while applying to an individual school, you’re just giving yourself more options when you apply to more “reach” and “stretch” schools.

That $500 is an investment in his future. You would not refrain from buying stocks because someone else might also want to buy them and the stocks might make you a millionaire. It should be looked at like any other investment and the application blitz paid off for Zbylut with a choice between 17 colleges.

Overall, well-played, Lukasz, even if getting into 17 selective colleges is totally trophy-hunting.

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