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Feeling alone as you swim through the terrifying waters known as the college admission process? Have no fear! We have five seniors blogging about ups, downs, and random in-betweens of their college process for the next 12 months (from June 2013 to June 2014!). Sit back, relax, and get that “OMG I totally get you, bro” feeling.

There’s this thing that happens among groups of motivated college-bound students. It happens on College Confidential, it happens on the online appblr community, and it’s happening in my senior class right now. This phenomenon essentially boils down to one key element: the adoration and reverence of well-known and highly-ranked universities above all others. I like to call it Ivy League Worship.

Right off the bat, I will admit that this term is a bit of misnomer. Stanford is subject to ILW. So are MIT and Caltech, among others. However, these schools all do have a few things in common which lead me to put them together under the heading of “Ivy League”. First, they are all ranked very high on the U.S. News and World Report Best College Rankings (a list which is highly flawed and widely overvalued). Secondly, they are all extremely selective. And third, in a more general sense, these schools are built up as the zenith of college education. There is this idea that if you attend one of these schools, you will get a high-paying job right after graduation and your life will be just peachy from there on out. And since “Ivy League” is synonymous in the public consciousness with “amazing, job-getting schools,” I think it is far to use this term to encompass a larger range of schools than just those select eight.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with aspiring to attend one of these colleges. They have amazing academics, incredible alumni networks, and myriad other positive attributes. However, problems arise when people begin to idealize these schools, and decide that they are inherently superior to lesser-known institutions just because of their reputations. For instance, one classmate of mine said that he was applying to Harvard and Yale because if you major in business at either of them, you are much more likely to get a better job faster. While I am completely unqualified to assess the validity of this statement, I do think it is strange to decide where you are going to spend four crucial years of your life based on what you hope you will do after those four years are over. And I also feel that when people ignore personal fit, cost, location, etc. and see only the name of a college, they are doing a major disservice to themselves and those around them.

Ok, that was a bit of a rant. But the reason I am bringing up Ivy League Worship is because I, along with many other seniors, am currently suffering from its repercussions.  I have the stats to be a potential candidate for the most selective schools. I could apply to every university in *gag* HYPSMC– a horrendous acronym for the “best” U.S. schools frequently used on College Confidential– and have a chance at getting into one or more of them. However, I am choosing to apply early decision to Wesleyan University, a school which is confused for Wellesley 90% of the time and which is only #17 on USN&WR’s Liberal Arts College Rankings. The horror! My choice to apply to lesser-known schools has ostracized me from my Ivy League-lovin’ classmates, who wouldn’t dare waste their valuable early application on some weird little LAC. It is hard for me to pass up the opportunity to join this elite group and gain the admiration of my friends and peers, even though I now that a small school like Wesleyan is a better place for me than, say, Yale.
I should acknowledge that these are the complaints of a privileged person. I am incredibly lucky to be able to attend college at all, and even more so that I have had the resources to make myself a very strong applicant for selective schools. Still, I think it is important that we all consider what it means for a college to be “good,” and stop wondering how many people will raise their eyebrows and say “wow!” when they hear what school we go to. And I also just need to remind myself–in this time of big decisions and high stress–that I am on the right path, and I absolutely do not need to go to an Ivy League school to become a successful and fulfilled person. I think we all need to remind ourselves of that sometimes.

You can get in touch with Celeste through her Tumblr or through the complicated system of tunnels that she has installed beneath most major cities.

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the author

Celeste Barnaby is a senior at a tiny private school in Reno, Nevada, also known as the Neon Babylon. She has committed to attend Wesleyan University and plans to major in film studies (but she's keeping an open mind). When she’s not stressing out over her schoolwork or procrastinating said work, she enjoys horseback riding, writing macabre short stories, and shopping for flannels. You can observe her attempts at humor and various television-related obsessions on her Tumblr.

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  1. Blithe Cynic on October 6, 2013

    Yes yes yes! As someone who goes to a high ranking LAC, is getting the most incredible education ever, and still has to listen to people whine about how it was their “backup school” and “no one’s heard of it” and feel like a chump for seeing my acceptance here with excellent financial aid to be the best thing to ever happen to me, I have to warn you that the superficial idiocy never ends. However, I wish you the best for your application process and praise you for not buying into the BS. Best of luck!

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