Tyler Gamble graduated from Sayre School May 29 at age 17 as a part of the class of 2010.
But his really big number is 15.
That's the number of colleges and universities that accepted Tyler as a student for the fall semester. Those 15 include some fairly prestigious schools, including Dartmouth, Cornell, Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, Notre Dame and, oh yes, Harvard.
Picking the right school from such an august group was potentially challenging. But Tyler recently decided on Harvard, after visiting the campus in Cambridge, Mass.
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School guidance counselors around Lexington said it's increasingly common for today's high school seniors to apply to and be accepted by multiple colleges, in contrast to a time not long ago when most seniors applied to only two or three. But most counselors agree that 15 acceptances is a lot.
Tyler said he wasn't trying for some kind of record. He just wanted to cover his wide-ranging interests, which extend from history and English to math and science. Besides, he said, he was able to apply at many schools online, simplifying the process.
"I just started applying to schools that were good at everything, because I really had no clue what I was going to do," he said. "I thought that if I applied at places that were good at everything, no matter where I went, I'd be sure to be at a school with a strong program in whatever I was interested in."
That's not a bad strategy, guidance counselors said.
They said they generally urge students to apply to several schools, including a few "dream schools" that they'd love to attend, a few they'd be happy with, and a few "safe" schools, where they'd probably be assured of acceptance.
But counselors also said that the process can get out of hand.
"I generally encourage kids to keep it to 10 or less," said Beverly Smith, who heads the Math, Science and Technology Center at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. "That's mainly to help out their parents, because it costs you to apply to these schools."
Smith said most students at Dunbar's center apply at five to 10 schools.
She said that she applied to only three colleges coming out of high school.
Peggy Workman, who heads the Liberal Arts Academy at Henry Clay High School, said she urges her students to focus on six to eight schools, rather than getting caught up in an applications numbers race. Besides, she said, applying can consume a lot of time and energy.
Workman said she applied to only one college.
Randy Mills, the college counselor at Sayre, said most Sayre seniors probably file six to eight college applications. But the overall trend might be climbing as top-flight students seek acceptance at the best schools, he said.
The whole selection process also is becoming more competitive, Mills says. Only a few years ago, seniors might take one college entrance exam, he said. Now, they said take multiple exams to gain an edge, or take each test two or three times in hopes of boosting their scores.
"I think colleges want to know, based on a young person's record, how he or she might contribute to college life: Will they be involved and engaged in the college experience?" Mills said. "In Tyler's case, he's the kind of young man many schools would love to have."
Tyler, the older son of Linda and John Gamble of Lexington, is Sayre's student body president. He was captain of the soccer team this year and played on the lacrosse team last year. He said he still isn't sure what he wants to study in college.
"History is probably my favorite subject. It's like watching a movie, except it's real," he said. "But I just don't know how practical it is as far as a job field.
"At Harvard, you don't have to declare an area of concentration until the end of your sophomore year. So I figure I'll take the introductory classes in a bunch of subjects and see which ones I like best."