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Where students apply: a case study

Say you are the president of a liberal arts college in Iowa, or admissions dean at a public university in California. Surely you have wondered, 'where do the high school seniors of suburban Washington apply to college?'

I have the answer.

Jim Lipton, a parent affiliated with Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, tracks where Walter Johnson students apply. (He also tracks where they get in. But that's beside the point of this post.)

His spreadsheet makes a great read. It shows the college application habits of a student population that is a cross-section of upper-middle-class Washington suburbia.

Who knew that Penn State and Syracuse were Top 10 destinations for kids from Montgomery County?

Lipton says his spreadsheet lists "all colleges and universities (U.S. and outside) to which at least two Walter Johnson High Schools students applied between 2006-2009." There are 430 schools on the list. I reproduce the top 30 here, along with a few other notable schools.

The number of applicants follows the name of each school.

1. Univ of Maryland College Park, 708 applications
2. Towson Univ, MD, 229
3. Univ of Maryland Baltimore County, 224
4. Pennsylvania State, University Park, 188
5. St. Mary's College, MD, 144
6. Univ of Delaware, 126
7. Univ of Michigan, 124
8. Syracuse Univ, 110
9. Boston Univ, 108
10. American Univ, 106
11. New York Univ, 102
12. George Washington Univ, DC, 98
13. Salisbury University, MD, 96
14. Emory Univ, GA, 93
15. James Madison Univ, VA, 93
16. Cornell Univ, NY, 91
17. Indiana Univ, IN, 87
18. Johns Hopkins Univ, MD, 87
19. Univ of Pennsylvania, 86
20. Univ of Virginia, 85
21. Georgetown Univ, DC, 84
22. Tulane Univ, LA, 82
23. Washington Univ St. Louis, 82
24. Frostburg State Univ, MD, 80
25. Univ of Vermont, 80
26. Univ of Wisconsin, Madison, 80
27. Univ of Miami, 75
28. Univ of Pittsburgh, 74
29. Virginia Polytechnic Institute, 68
30. Tufts Univ, MA, 65
Other notables:
College of William and Mary, VA, 49
Princeton Univ, NJ, 46
Harvard Univ, MA, 45
Yale Univ, CT, 38
Stanford Univ, CA, 35

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By Daniel de Vise  |  February 18, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions , Rankings , Research  | Tags: St. Mary's College, U-Md, UMBC, college admissions, college applications  
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In the spring, the last edition of the WJHS student newspaper includes a list of where the graduating seniors report that they are planning to attend in the fall. For the past three years, the institution drawing the largest number of students has been Montgomery College. Based on those reports, there must have been at least 120 applicants to MC in the past three years alone. Is Montgomery College not on the list in this article because only 4-year institutions are under discussion?

Posted by: contrarymom | February 18, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

interesting. i graduated from hs in montgomery county in the late 60s and was joined by several other local students at unc. my sons graduated in the late 80s/early 90s and went to duke, along with several other country graduates. i just times just change since neither school made the wj list. i also remember classmates of mine and my sons going to berkely, cal tech and mit.

Posted by: george32 | February 19, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I am interested to know if the total number of colleges each student applies to has changed over the last few years. Every news clip I see this year from colleges is that their applications have increased tremendously!

Posted by: prnt23 | February 19, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

To prnt23: Yes, the common application means that most individuals are applying to many more schools than in previous years. It has created quite a challenge for admissions officers trying to predict what their yield will be.

Posted by: richmondreader | February 19, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Most high school career centers collect similar data; at least my Fairfax County high school did when I was there. (I graduated from high school in 2003). When I applied to colleges, three of the more popular schools out of state were Elon, West Virginia University, and East Carolina University. Also, at least three students my year--including myself--applied early action to the University of Chicago.

I think it would be interesting to compare high schools across the region, as I think there would be some differences between public high schools in Maryland and public high schools in Virginia. (I think the private prep schools in DC would yield very different results than public schools in the area.)

Posted by: DCgalnSeattle | February 19, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

None of the military academies made the list? Not even VMI? "The nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to have its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards."

Posted by: malusk03 | February 19, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

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