Can Colleges See What Other Schools You Apply To?

July 31, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Can Colleges See What Other Schools You Apply To?

Can colleges see what other schools you apply to? Now that you’ve decided which schools you want to attend, you’re ready to start the application process. However, you can’t help but wonder whether or not colleges are able to see the other schools to which you’ve applied. Will the fact that colleges know to which other schools you have applied to affect your chances of being accepted?

Can Colleges See If You Have Applied Somewhere Else?

In most cases, colleges are unable to learn about other schools to which you have applied. It is also strongly discouraged that colleges inquire about the applicants’ choice of other colleges to which they have applied.

According to the Code of Ethics and Professional Practices of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), it is unethical to ask “candidates…to divulge or rank order their college preferences on applications or other documents.” This recommendation can be found in the NACAC’s document.

Having said that, there are always going to be exceptions; therefore, you need to be very careful not to reveal your preferences by accident, as this could hurt your chances of being accepted. This is due to the fact that universities are extremely protective of their yield, which is the percentage of accepted students who ultimately enroll at the institution to which they were admitted.

Three students talking in a bench while holding their notes.

A college appears to be more “desirable” to prospective students when the yield is higher. Therefore, some educational institutions do not accept highly qualified students or place them on a waiting list if they believe the student is not likely to enroll (this is known as yield protection or Tufts Syndrome).

When Will Colleges Be Able to See If You Applied to Other Schools?

Can colleges see what other schools you apply to? It will be either on your transcript or in the recommendation letter you got. Even though it is not very common, it is possible for the person who is writing your letter of recommendation to make a reference to the early decision college that you are applying to while also reusing the letter for the other colleges that are on your list.

You will find that the majority of instructors are aware of how to adapt their recommendation letter so that it is applicable to all of the schools that you are applying to, but if you want to be absolutely certain, you can check with them.

Students lounging in the school grounds.

It is possible that your transcript will include a list of the schools to which you have applied, but this is also not very likely. Once more, you can check with your counselor to confirm this information and feel better.

Early Decision

Early decision is one more way to answer the question of whether can colleges see what other schools you apply to. This is a way for colleges to learn where else you have applied to besides their own. Under the terms of this admissions timeline, you will be required to sign an agreement in which you make a commitment to enroll in the college if you are accepted and to withdraw any other applications you may have submitted.

Some of the most prestigious schools in the country have been caught sharing the names of students who have been accepted into their early decision programs. These schools have stated that they are doing this to ensure that applicants are not in violation of any Early Decision policies and to reassure prospective students that the program will not affect their chances of admission.

Despite this, in 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began looking into the possibility that this practice violated federal antitrust laws and began conducting an investigation into the matter.

The policy was defended by a number of admissions officials who stated that students entered the early decision agreement voluntarily and that if they did not want their information shared, they should not apply for early decision if they did not want it to be shared.

What’s the takeaway here? There is no reason for you to be concerned about this as long as you are not violating the terms of your Early Decision agreement. Be sure to withdraw your applications for the Regular Decision round if you are offered a spot, and under no circumstances should you wait for a decision “just for fun.” If you do so, you will be in violation of the agreement, and you will be preventing other students from enrolling in the program.

They Inquire About it During an Interview or Application Process

According to the NACAC Code of Ethics and Professional Practices, admissions officers are allowed to “ask the question [‘Where else are you applying?’]” when interviewing prospective students. Verbally only, and only if the response will not be used to influence a decision regarding admission, scholarship, or financial aid.” If it weren’t to protect their yield, why would colleges care where else you’re applying besides their own institution?

Student talking her interviewer in an office.

They might use the information for marketing purposes, in which case schools would make use of the information to gain knowledge about other educational institutions with which they are competing and to improve their recruitment strategies. This is a fairly innocuous reason, and it shouldn’t have much of an effect on your chances of being accepted.

In addition, many educational institutions view the percentage of students who actually attend the university to which they have been admitted as a measure of their prestige, and as such, they are extremely protective of their yield rates. If you disclose the fact that you are also applying to a number of higher-ranked institutions, the college or university that posed the question will infer that they are your safety school.

As a result, they will be less likely to admit you in order to maintain their current yield rate. It is important to keep in mind that the individuals in charge of college admissions are extremely knowledgeable and evaluate anywhere from hundreds to thousands of applicants each year. No matter what response you give to this question, the institution will have a good idea of where it stands in comparison to other schools based on the information in your profile.

In light of this, it is possible that you will be asked in an interview or even on some college applications where else you are applying, despite the fact that this is relatively rare. The Common Application came under fire in 2015 after it was discovered that it allowed colleges to ask applicants about other schools to which they had applied. Even so, there are still colleges that will inquire about it.

In circumstances such as these, it is recommended that the question be left unanswered if at all possible. In the event that you are required to respond to the question or are participating in an interview, our recommendation is that you provide an answer that is intentionally ambiguous and steers clear of directly naming schools.

For instance, you could say, “I’m applying to my state’s flagship university and a few other schools across the country.” Alternatively, you could say, “I’m applying to other schools with strong environmental science programs.”

You could also highlight an admirable quality of the school by talking about the shared general characteristics of the schools you’re applying to, without naming specific colleges. For instance, you could say, “I’m applying to other schools with strong environmental science programs.”

However, there are some schools that are interested in finding out who their genuine overlaps are. In most cases, they wait until after the fact to send the questionnaires to admitted students in order to obtain this information on cross-admits for admitted students. But they also want to know where the students who were on the verge of admission applied, and since it would be awkward to ask that question after they had denied a student admission to the school (and I’m guessing the response rate wouldn’t be that great), this is the only point in the process where they can get that information.


However, in the past, it was asserted by credible publications that colleges not only look at the list of schools on your FAFSA form, but might also base college decisions on the order in which you listed those schools. This has been a quiet topic over the past few years, but in the past, it was claimed that this was the case.

This is due to the fact that the way in which you list schools may indicate the order in which you prefer them. Listing your schools in alphabetical order, which gives no indication of your preferences, is a simple way to avoid any issues that may be caused by your FAFSA form. This order does not reveal any of your preferences.

A Few Additional Things That Should Be Considered

College hopefuls are cautioned in a similar vein by Forbes to select the method by which they will rank schools on their four free ACT score reports with great care. Because it is difficult to determine whether or not this is true, you should list your schools in alphabetical order as a precaution.

In any case, we do not advise making use of the free score reports because you will not be aware of your score until after it has been transmitted.

It has also been suggested that colleges are increasingly turning to high-tech methods, such as studying the applicants’ social media habits and browsing activity, in order to get inside the minds of potential students.

It is difficult to judge just how much data mined from internet activity is used in the admissions decisions because this practice is fairly new and in the shadows; however, you should be aware that it could be getting tracked. This is something that you should be aware of.

Even if the emails that you receive from the colleges to which you are applying are promotional in nature, you should at the very least open them all. Schools are able to and do monitor how you interact with their emails, and they use this data to determine your level of interest in attending their institution.

The Key Point

The vast majority of college admissions decisions are made based on standard criteria such as grade point average (GPA), scores on standardized tests, and participation in extracurricular activities; however, the number of schools to which you have applied is not taken into consideration.

Even so, there are other ways on how can colleges see what other schools you apply to, provided that they are interested in that information; however, your best course of action is to make it as difficult as possible for them to do so.

Do Colleges See When You Add Them to Common App?

Do colleges see when you add them to the common app? Before I send in my application, what information about it is available to schools to look at? The Common App, which is recognized by more than 900 educational institutions, some of which are located outside of the United States, facilitates the streamlining of an essential component of the college admissions process for students.

Two people reading a likely letter in a table.

Users of the platform have the ability to submit applications to multiple colleges all at once, whether they are first-time applicants or transfer students. Therefore, students will only have to fill out the details that are required by the majority of schools just once, including their name, address, and extracurricular activities.

Before you add a school to your “My Colleges” list, they will not have any access to the information you provide on your profile. At that point, the only information they will be able to view is the data you have entered for their school. They will not be able to see the applications you have submitted to any other schools.

Any colleges that you have added to your list in the “My Colleges” section of the website will have access to the following information regarding your application:

  • Prefix, First Name, Middle Name, Last Name, Suffix, Preferred Name, City, State, ZIP, Country, Ethnicity, Gender, Applicant ID, Citizenship Status, Date of Birth (DOB), Entry Term, Decision Type, Applicant Type (First Year or Transfer), Academic Interest, Paid Status, Recommenders, School CEEB and School Name

If you choose to give schools the opportunity to communicate with you prior to the submission of an application, those schools will also have access to the following information:

  • Your Social Security Number, Permanent Home Address, Alternate Phone Number, Cell Phone Number, Alternate Phone Number, and Email Address

When you give an application to a school, that school will be able to view all of the information that is included on that application once you have given it to the school.

Do Universities Talk to Each Other About Applicants?

Do universities talk to each other about applicants? The answer to this question is going to be a resounding “no” for the most part. The individuals in charge of college admissions do not gather in private to discuss which of the incoming freshmen students have applied to their respective schools. They are way too busy evaluating applications to bother with that right now.

Female student reading a likely letter.

Some people are concerned that if schools find out they have applied to around six other schools, it will give the impression that the applicant is either unable to make a decision or is desperate. Even if the admissions officers saw multiple applications submitted by the same student, it is unlikely that they would form a negative impression of the applicant themselves.

This is not Always the Case

Take note of the phrase “for the most part” that we used earlier. Some of the transcripts will include notes about the activities of the particular applicant, such as the date and location of when and where their applications were sent. However, this does not significantly impact their chances of being accepted because it happens so infrequently.

Some colleges will ask an applicant what other colleges they are applying to or considering attending; however, this question is asked less for the benefit of the students and more for the benefit of the colleges.

This is a method for them to collect data that they can use in their marketing and recruiting campaigns later on. It is not intended to stoke any sort of rivalry, and it will not have any bearing on the likelihood of your admission to those schools.

There are Some Schools that can Ask

In a similar vein, on can colleges see what other schools you apply to,  the Common Application made it possible for colleges to inquire about students regarding the other schools to which they had applied. This was met with a variety of responses, including some criticism; for example, one argument advanced was that colleges were using this information to reject certain applicants or reduce the number of financial aid packages offered; however, not all colleges ask this question.

There is a group of highly selective colleges that share their Early Decision student list among each other, but only after those students have been accepted; therefore, there is no need to be concerned about affecting the odds in this regard.

However, to reiterate, the general consensus is that the answer to this perplexing question is “no.” And even if the answer is yes, it’s highly unlikely that it will be used as a reason to deny an application. However, these are some important considerations to keep in mind while applying to different colleges.

If you’re looking for guidance that will best prepare you for entry into one of the elite universities in the country? We’ve got you covered! At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

We are able to assist you in preparing your admission requirements. AdmissionSight will assist you throughout the entirety of the admissions process in order to increase your chances of gaining entry into an Ivy League institution.


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