At this time of year, I’m busy helping juniors put together their lists of colleges and hearing from the seniors about where they have been admitted. You have probably heard of the concept of finding reach, match and likely schools. It is always easy to find reach schools. These are the schools with the most name recognition. The ones that your favorite aunt or your next-door neighbor will nod in approval of, when you say you are applying there. It feels nice to be able to say to yourself “I’m good enough to apply to X school”.
But these are the same schools that are most likely to either tell you no or to be too expensive. Which is the situation that many seniors are finding themselves in now. Most of the decisions have come out and this year, once again, is even more competitive than last year!
I saw some early signs of this in December, when two of my top students weren’t offered the opportunity to apply for USC’s best scholarships. In previous years these same kids would not only have been invited to apply, they would have been likely to get those scholarships. I saw another sign when Grinnell College sent out a last minute plea for students to write an additional essay telling them why they wanted to go to Grinnell. This supplemental essay had not been part of the Common Application for 2015-2016. But Grinnell, a small, liberal arts college in the middle of Iowa, found themselves flooded with applicants and needed to find some way to narrow down the pool.
And I’m seeing it now. Late March is when the last of the decisions come out. These are for the schools that have the lowest acceptance rates. Which means that lots of top students, who have all the qualifications to apply to these schools, are getting rejections. There is no way to sugar-coat it. Being told “no” hurts, even if you intellectually knew that getting in was a long-shot. And hearing multiple “no’s”? Let’s just say that parents need to have lots of ice cream on hand at the end of March!
Which brings me to the title of my post. Yesterday I sat down with one of my seniors to go through her options. She hasn’t heard yet from every school on her list, but early indications are that she isn’t likely to get into her reach schools. So now it is time for her to “Love the one she is with!”
She has some excellent options, including a school that has invited her to participate in their top honors program. Some of you may have heard what Malcolm Gladwell has had to say about that. He showed statistics that say it is better to be at the top of the class at a lower-ranked school than in the bottom half of an Ivy League level school. The student at the top of the class will have more attention from professors and more research and internship opportunities. Which will translate into better job prospects and grad school admissions when the student graduates.
So my advice for current juniors is to keep exploring those reach schools, but to also dig deep to find the match and likely schools that might be perfect for you! The ones that will fit you like a glove.
And my advice for seniors is to look past the name brand schools that are telling you “no” right now. Take a second or third look at your match and likely schools. The ones that told you “yes” weeks or months ago. Which of those schools offers the best programs for your potential majors? Which ones have the clubs and activities that you want to participate in? Which ones have the lowest cost? Which ones have shown you the most love?
Yes, you might get lucky and get into one of the “lottery” schools this week. But while you are waiting to hear from those last few schools, dig in to the options that you already have. Find out more about the schools that have said yes. Which of those schools is the one you love the most?
Author: Teri Thompson