Your top college is out of your reach

Maggie Parks, Reporter


As a senior, the easiest conversation starter is asking which colleges the person applied to. Maybe it’s just my class, but it seems like half of the people I ask are delusional. Having a reach school or two on your list is not a bad thing, but if you’re completely dependent on your Ivy-League equivalent, then you need to check yourself.

It’s great that you’re taking APs, have a 4.0 GPA, play sports, and are the president of a club but that’s not getting you into Harvard. You’re not one in a million, you’re just one of many.

A common misconception is that because you’re in the top 10% of your grade, you have a good chance at a college with a 10% acceptance rate. If this is you, I’m sorry. The pool of applicants that those schools are choosing from are all the top 10% of their grade and the ones that they actually accept are the probably only the 1%.

This goes for more than just the Ivies though. Some schools may seem to have high acceptance rates, but they may not be realistic based on your academic and extra-curricular background. If all the schools you’re applying to have less than a 30% acceptance rate, you still don’t have a safety. You need to rethink.

The majority of seniors do have a safety school, but some wouldn’t even be happy going there. What will you do when you don’t get in everywhere else? It’s not a “safety” unless you’re almost sure you’ll get in and you could see yourself going there.

The name of the school doesn’t matter as much as some people make it out to be. Maybe people will find it momentarily impressive when you tell them, but they don’t actually care, and they’ll probably forget about it tomorrow.

You can tell me all you want that you “don’t care about the name” and that you “just like Princeton the most” but you chose to look there, so clearly it meant something when you were searching. I guarantee your guidance counselor didn’t recommend it to you.

Now for the SAT. I can’t emphasize enough that your SAT score doesn’t signify how intelligent you are. You could teach a 5th grader where to put a comma or how to solve a linear equation, the only significant part of your score is that it tells how well you remember those simple concepts. Some people have strong suits in other areas so just because those are yours doesn’t mean you’re intelligent. Your GPA paired with your SAT will reveal that better than anything.

And even if you’re extremely smart, colleges don’t want a bookworm. They want someone who will represent their school by being ambitious and friendly. This is usually where volunteer work and extra-curricular activities come in.

With a combination of all these things you might have half a chance at some of the nation’s most elite schools. At least this is better than the alternative.

I’m not saying I’m a genius because I’m definitely not. I try my best to be well-rounded, though, and don’t want to underestimate my abilities when applying for college.

In the beginning of the year when I was finalizing which schools I would apply to, I had to be realistic. I looked at the average SAT and GPA range at each school and if I wasn’t even in the bracket, I didn’t apply. I applied to eight schools, UNC Chapel Hill being my only reach school. I probably won’t get in there, but that’s okay. I have plenty of more options that I love and have already gotten into.

A reach school doesn’t mean applying to somewhere where you’re completely below the average statistics. Maybe you’re on the lower end of those statistics but you think you have some extra qualities that could make you stand out. In that case, by all means apply, but don’t get too caught up in praying you’ll get in.

So next time someone asks you which school you want to go to, know that they’re definitely weighing your chances in their head. And they’ll probably laugh when you say Harvard.