By: Caroline Koppelman
“If I apply to eleven schools, chances are I’ll get into one of them!” says almost everyone applying to college. If you’re talking about eleven reach schools, you’re probably wrong.
But we get it. You’ve been taught probabilities and you understand how they work. As we’ve said before, the college process defies conventional knowledge in more ways than one, and this is one of those times.
Applying to all of the Ivy League plus schools (Stanford, UChicago, Duke, MIT, etc.) does not in any way increase your chances of getting into one. We would actually argue it decreases your chance.
As eye-roll inducing as it may sound, colleges have distinct personalities. A typical Dartmouth student is very different from a typical MIT student. It goes without saying that that student will not excel in both schools. And these schools know what they’re looking for. While they like diversity, they know the type of person who does best at their school. As such, your personality, preferences, and dreams will not match every top school. If you’re a gifted writer you may be able to contort yourself and manipulate your essays into sounding like the school you’re applying to, but that seems like a waste of time.
Before applying to any school, you have to do your research. You shouldn’t apply to a school just because of its brand name recognition. We’ve had students who have wanted to apply to six Ivy League schools because they liked individual aspects of each school. All of these schools have somewhat lengthy supplements that take time, and to get into one of these schools you’ll have to do substantial research and put a lot of effort into the application.
So, we like to tell our students to really consider the opportunity cost of applying to every reach school. No matter how early you start the college application process, there always seems to be an anxiety fueled time crunch towards the end. And while you CAN apply anywhere you want, applying to all of these schools will take time away from the ones you actually want to attend. If you take these schools off of the pedestal, you’ll realize there are things you don’t like about them, which will make them easier to eliminate.
The bottom line is that we understand these schools are prestigious and have global name-brand recognition. But it’s much better to follow Ron Swanson’s advice and put a concentrated effort into one or two instead of half-assing five or six.