For the last few years, each April we’ve seen news stories about students admitted to all eight Ivies. It’s an impressive accomplishment, no doubt. But is there any real reason to apply to all of them?
Even for the best students, the answer is no.
The reality is, the eight Ivy League schools (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, and UPenn) are very different places. If you are amazed by the campus at Cornell and would be thrilled to be surrounded by all of that natural beauty, or your love of Greek Life and the proximity to amazing skiing draw you to Dartmouth, Columbia, with its incredible urban setting is probably not going to be the place for you.
The schools have different approaches to educational requirements, with Columbia being famous for its Core Curriculum — a set of courses all undergraduates take, which is considered to be the foundation of your undergraduate education and Brown being equally renown for its Open Curriculum, which has no general education or distribution requirements. If you’re certain you want to major in business administration as an undergrad, you’d better pick UPenn and its famous Wharton School over Harvard, which has no undergraduate business major.
For every college applicant, regardless of whether Ivy League schools are on your list, you are much better off not applying to any schools you have no intention of attending. If you can’t see yourself at a school — if it was the only school you got into and attending it filled you with a sense of dread — don’t bother to apply. Don’t stress yourself out with another application, don’t waste your time or the admissions officers’ time, and don’t run the risk of taking a spot from someone who would be thrilled to go there.
Applying to schools you don’t want to go to is just trophy hunting, and there’s no reason to do it. No matter who you are, or what you’re looking for in a school, you can put together a list of six to ten schools you would be happy to attend and that will be a great fit for you, academically, financially, and socially. This list should include places you are very likely to get into (safety schools), schools that are a really good fit for your academic accomplishments (match schools), and schools that are aspirational (reach schools).
Photo (c) Kris Snibbe