There are a ton of good reasons not to apply to a school: it’s too far away, it’s too close, too big, too small, too snowy, terrible atmosphere, no diversity…You can’t apply everywhere, and you’ve got to take some schools off your college list and your to-do list somehow. Sometimes, though, we get a little backspace-button-happy and end up deleting some schools that we might have liked in the end. If you’ve eliminated schools from your list for any of these reasons, you might want to reevaluate.
Dream School Or Bust
There’s an episode of Hannah Montana in which Miley applies to Stanford, gets rejected, and has no other options–except, you know, being Hannah Montana. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a secret life as a teen pop sensation to fall back on, so most of us really can’t afford to rely on the dream school. You need some safeties. “It’s not Harvard/Stanford/Yale” is not a reason to do anything, except maybe delete “…and that’s why I want to go to Harvard/Stanford/Yale” from your supplemental essay.
According to college writer and TPS director Joanna Flores, this is definitely an issue: “I’ve heard too many times of students not applying to more or certain schools, because they’re only applying to their ‘[dream school] or bust’. College applications aren’t a bargaining process, nor does it help you to put all your efforts/focus on one school — they don’t know that, and you lose all your options.”
Even if you do get accepted–congratulations–it’s still your only option. What if financial aid doesn’t work out the way you needed it to work? Or, God forbid, what if you wake up from your dream and realize that you hate it, that the perfect school for you was standing right in your state the whole time? You’ve put too many eggs in too few baskets, and in any case–accepted or not–something’s about to break. Don’t let this “dream school or bust” mentality rob you of all your options.
On the other side of the coin, there are students who don’t apply because they don’t think they’ll get in. To them, I offer this advice: Don’t be so quick to judge yourself–it’s not your job.
College writer Paige Sheffield didn’t apply to Northwestern for this reason, and she advises against it: “I didn’t even necessarily have a valid reason why I thought I wouldn’t get in other than the low acceptance rate,” she says. “You can’t get in without applying and I shouldn’t have been so afraid of rejection that I limited myself.”
DaLia Hughes, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, applied to and was accepted by Yale, Stanford, and UPenn, among other fantastic schools. Was she her high school’s valedictorian? No. Did she build a time machine? No. Did she get a 2400 on her SATs or a 36 on her ACTs, and did she do it blindfolded? No and no. She worked extremely hard throughout school, she stayed involved in the organizations that were important to her, and most importantly, she applied. Today, she’s a freshman at her dream school–something that obviously couldn’t have happened if she’d let stats psych her out.
You shouldn’t bet on your dream schools, but you shouldn’t bet against yourself, either. Don’t cross off a school because you think you’re not good enough. As with anything, you won’t know if you don’t try.
So your college list is looking good now, and all you have to do is apply. You sit down at your computer, you log in to Common App, you add all your colleges, and–I’m sorry, they want you to write how many essays?
Probably the biggest reason for last-minute striking colleges off lists has to be the essays, or, more accurately, laziness. All the laziness. College writer Grant Roth cites this as part of the reason he didn’t apply to Syracuse University: “There were four or five short answer questions instead of the traditional essay. I decided I didn’t want to take the time and do each question… and thus I didn’t apply.”
Yes, this will save you time, and to an extent, if you’re not willing to work hard for a school, you might not like it as much as you think. That realization could be a good reason to cut it from the list. But don’t let the essay itself scare you from applying. A little hard work won’t kill you, and if you actually like the school and think it would be a good fit, then there’s no reason not to finish it off.
Brown is NOT the New Black
And then there’s the small stuff: the mascot, the football team’s ranking (when you neither play nor watch football), and even the school colors. College writer Crystal Han shares, “This is pretty embarrassing to admit, but one of the reasons I didn’t apply to Lehigh University is that I look terrible in the color brown.” As for me, 98% of the reason that I didn’t apply to and barely looked at the University of Oregon was because I received a letter from them urging me to become a duck (their mascot). The mental image of my animal transformation stopped me from further investigating a perfectly good school.
If you want to knock a school off your list because you don’t look good in yellow or the mascot is a pumpkin, that’s fine, but make sure that it isn’t otherwise the perfect school for you.
BRB Applying to 956 Schools
That isn’t to say that you should apply to all the schools, just in case. There are perfectly good reasons not to apply, all the way from not liking the curriculum to not liking the weather, and at the end of the day, you have to draw the line between reasons and non-reasons for yourself. Silly reasons can be valid reasons if they’re not silly to you.
More importantly, striking a good school off your list isn’t the end of the world. There isn’t just one good school for each person. Likely, there are several. That’s why we make lists. At the end of the day, you’ll probably be happy. Grant, who regretted not applying to Syracuse, says, “I really think NYU is where I was supposed to end up.” Paige, who didn’t apply to Northwestern, writes, “I don’t regret it much because I ended up not actually wanting to go to Northwestern anyways. I love my school.” When you’re making your college list and investigating schools, keep your options as open as possible, examine your reasons for applying or not applying, and you’ll be absolutely fine.