You hear that? It’s like the sound of millions of voices crying out in pain. You know what that means, it’s college admissions time! Well don’t you worry, as an accepted student I am as certified as anyone to help you get into your “Dream” school.
1. You Can’t
So you want to go to Harvard eh? You know who gets into Harvard? No one gets into Harvard! You have a better chance of being mauled by a yellow-spotted unicorn, than getting into Harvard. Fact. There is a very specific reason that people call it a dream school, because it is just that, a dream, a fantasy. The sooner you realize this, ultimately, the better off you will be.
Let’s use Harvard as a example, the quintessential dream school. Their acceptance rate is 5.9%. Statistically speaking you have a better chance of becoming a millionaire than you do getting into Harvard (unless you live in the south). You have a better chance of being color blind (assuming you’re male) (10%), dying of cancer (20%), or dying of heart disease (~14%) than you do of getting into Harvard. But Matt you’re saying, I’m a straight A student, I do a million clubs, I got a 2200 on my SAT’s I should totally be able to get into Harvard. Well that would be true if the system made any sense. I once told by a Harvard addmissions counselor something to the effect of, “if we had to choose a class over again, we’d probably end up picking a whole different set of people.” So yeah, it’s a crapshoot.
2. …But It Doesn’t Matter
The truth of the matter is, no matter where you go, no matter how well ranked that school is, regardless of whether it was at the top of your list or squarely at the bottom, you are still going to have essentially the same college experience. You’re still going to live in a dorm, you’re still going to take classes in lecture halls with knowledgeable professors, and you’re still going to meet a ton of people who are all interested in the same things you are.
At the end of the day the difference between any two schools is mostly just the name. If you apply yourself, if you work hard you can get roughly the same education at joe shmo community college that you can at Harvard, though it may be a bit more difficult. That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim for you’re “dream school”. No, you should always shoot for the best, just don’t get too attached to it, and NEVER take anything for granted.
3. Luck is a Fickle Mistress
Up until this point I’ve been tiptoeing around a critical issue. College admissions largely relies upon simple chance (unless you’re a legacy!). Now don’t get the idea that everything is futile and you should just give up. No, that mentality is your mortal enemy who has offended you’re family’s honor, you must murder it in the face! You will soon learn (because I’m about to tell you) that getting accepted is a simple game of improving your chances. Nothing in the world is every a guaranteed yes or no, it’s all about that percentage everyone keeps quoting to you that they supposedly read in USA Today because I guess that’s the only thing they have to do. There are plenty of things you can do to increase that percentage, you can do well on placement tests, take a rigorous schedule, get good grades, be born into the right family (You can probably tell I hate legacies). Everything you do will make that percentage go up incrementally. In the end it all boil down to chance though, so put all you can out there and just hope that lucky is being a lady tonight, and remember nothing is quarantined.
4. Everything in Moderation
The idea of everything in moderation applies just as much to college admissions as it does to everything else. When you’re making your list of schools to apply to, you want enough so that chances are you’ll get into at least one of them, but at the same time you don’t want to apply to too many and spread yourself too thin. Your chances of getting into a school increase the more that you apply to, but the quality of your application will naturally decrease as you apply to more schools. It’s all about finding that sweet spot.
The same thing goes with your extra-curricular activities. You want to do enough of them to show colleges that you’re a well-rounded student who is actively involved in their community and all that BS, basically so they know you’re not a hermit who lives in their room studying all day. At the same time you don’t want to participate in so many activities that you don’t have time to study and your grades suck. Everything in moderation.
5. Don’t be Dumb
If you want to go to college (which every study on the planet says you should) you most definitely can. All you have to do is be smart about it, don’t be that dumbass who doesn’t try. Everything you need to get where you want to go, you have, just apply yourself, and it’ll all be fine in the end. And if for some reason you get screwed and your life falls apart, just be glad you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans!