Applying to all Ivy League Schools is a Bad Idea

Here is a typical email (paraphrased) that we get this time of year…

My kid is applying to college, and we’re looking to hire someone to help us. He isn’t sure where he wants to go, so can you just do all of the Ivy League apps with him? We can do the rest on our own.

The only answer we give (albeit in a wordier and *slightly* friendlier format) is “N.O. Absolutely no.”

The response to our rejection is often a mix of confusion and frustration. We’re a college consulting company, so we should do what the parents want, right? Are we saying that Johnny won’t get in? How dare we say that before we even know him!

They’re right, we don’t know Johnny, but they’re wrong about everything else. First, it’s not our job to do what parents want. It’s our job and responsibility to do what is in the best interest of the child. Hopefully (and normally), that aligns with what parents are looking for, but sometimes finding that alignment requires some education about college admissions. Secondly, we aren’t saying that he won’t get in. There are plenty of reasons not to apply to the whole Ivy League even before we’ve had a chance to meet a kid or to see their numbers (test scores, grades, etc.).

Before we say why you shouldn’t apply to the whole Ivy League, though, we need to dispel a pernicious myth.

Every year, a few kids get into every single Ivy League school. Let’s get this straight: kids that sweep the Ivy’s are not normal. They are not common. These kids are anomalies, and their very existence perpetuates a narrative that you can ‘have it all’ that is absurd and unrealistic. The only thing a kid sweeping the Ivies really tells us is that there was a lack of research on the applicant side and/or they applied for high-status schools, not best-fit schools.

Harvard is very different from Dartmouth. One of the only things they have in common is that they are “elite” colleges. If you are perfect for one, you are probably not for the other. So why are you applying to both? Status.

If we took on clients where we only helped with multiple Ivy League applications, we’d be doing kids a disservice by leading them in the wrong direction. We would also be validating this thoughtless and elitist practice of trying to sweep the Ivy League.

Yes, when we work with a kid their chances of getting into a school improves a lot, but it’s not a guarantee, and when you are playing with an acceptance rate in the single digits, there is only so much we can do. Despite this, kids get caught up by the idea that the more time they put into an application, the better the outcome will be.

Every hour you spend on one application takes time away from time you could be spending on another, so every hour wasted on an application for a school you will not get into is an hour stolen from a school that you may only get into if you put the time in to sell yourself. If you have a 29 your chances of getting into Princeton won't go up if you spend 10 more hours on your essay.

This is similar to the issue of throwing away your Early Decision option on a school you have no chance of getting into because “why not try?” It’s a waste of time, it’s a waste of money, and it is a waste of resources. The opportunity cost is incredibly high: it hurts your chances of getting into a school that is a better fit.

This is why we say no when we are asked to help a kid apply to every Ivy, and why we beg that you abandon any intention of trying it yourself. It would be incredibly irresponsible of us to indulge in this fantasy. We all need to take a stand against irresponsible admissions practices that hurt kids in the short and long-term. 

All this being said, a large majority of our students apply and get into Ivy League schools. We never prevent a student from applying to a dream school, but we also don't allow frivolous applications. 

Say goodbye to your status-based picks and hello to a best-fit list.

If you want to look beyond the Ivy League, let’s connect. While Harvard and Yale are coveted for a reason, there are other amazing schools that may be perfect for you.