There is an abundance of literature available on the topic of college admissions.
A few choice books found on Amazon include: What Colleges Don’t Tell You (And Other Parents Don’t Want You to Know): 272 Secrets for Getting Your Kid into the Top Schools, Get into Any College: Secrets of Harvard Students, and How to Prepare a Standout College Application: Expert Advice that Takes You from *LMO (*Like Many Others) to Admit.
Even skimming through the somewhat ridiculous titles of these books, it’s clear that this industry is keen to feed the desperation and confusion that many college-hopefuls and their families experience as they consider the daunting task of applying to various universities and deciding where to go.
But as a current college freshman who can look back on the process one year after making her decision to attend Stanford, I’ve realized how much unexpected knowledge I gained along the way. So I turned to the wisdom of my classmates to gain a better understanding of what we learned organically during that stressful time.
There’s a general consensus that applying to too many schools can be just as detrimental as applying to too few. “I definitely would say you need to be selective about where you choose to apply. If you can’t see yourself going there, don’t just apply for fun,” Kaitlyn Jong ’20 cautions.
It can seem like a validation game at times, especially with reports of some high school seniors being accepted to all eight Ivies. However, the results of your college admissions process shouldn’t be treated as an affirmation or negation of your worth. Take time to think about your reasons for applying to the schools on your list; if you realize some names are just on there for the sake of ego, take them off.
Along the lines of application strategy, the question of luck often gets brought up. Making accurate predictions about where you may or may not be accepted can be tricky without knowing all of the factors at play.
However, one thing you have control over is your base level of preparation. Daily staffer Medha Verma ’20 remarks, “Most people waste so much time trying to figure out how to get into college, rather than focusing on the things that actually matter.”
Trying to game the system through connections or predictions of activities that will get the attention of admissions officers can be tempting, but it’s arguably more important to do as much as you can towards excelling in the things you’re truly passionate about — whether those are academic, artistic, athletic or any other combination of interests.
Skyler Castillo Wilson ’20 paraphrases a quote he remembers reading in a book of advice from Harvard students (further support for the notion that a great deal of wisdom can be gained from current university students); he recalls that, “there’s a lot of luck involved in the college process, but being prepared helps you take advantage of all of the luck that you have.”
For some students, difficulty arises when attempting to choose between colleges in the spring of their senior year of high school. Current Stanford freshman Eli Feierabend Peters puts a positive spin on things with his reflection that “there are so many amazing college options, and whether you get your first choices or not, you are going to find a college you love and have an amazing time. And if you happen to run into the fortunate problem of having too many amazing options that you can’t decide where you want to go, then flip a coin!”
While this decision may be more complex for some prospective college students, it’s wise to remember that your college acceptances by no means define your caliber as an individual. Although applying to university can be a strenuous process, the four years you spend in college ought to be seen as an opportunity for growth and exploration rather than a stamp of judgment on your character or a brand to wear on your sweatshirt.
Contact Cecilia Atkins at catkins ‘at’ stanford.edu.