Josh Stephens College counselor and specialist in college application essays.

With the arrival of summer, the long-awaited college application process is becoming real for rising seniors. They’re visiting campuses, thinking of essay topics, and, of course, honing their college lists.

For all the smart, personal choices that students will make, cosmetic notions of reputation, rank, and the like will lure many students. Famous ultra-selective colleges that figure prominently in students’, and parents’, daydreams will receive tens of thousands of applications. Many will come from students who are just “taking a shot.”

The combination of social pressures, readily accessible online applications, and faux-egalitarian marketing pitches from colleges makes it easy for thousands of students with no apparent distinctions - other than, of course, being good, smart kids - to pin hopes and dreams on schools with bathymetric admission rates: 12 percent, 9 percent, 4.69 percent.

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