Dan Gleiter, The Patriot-News/2008

Dream schools aren’t always the best

May 8, 2017

I can still remember the first time I heard of the Ivy League. I was about six years old and there was some story about the schools on the news and I decided that I wanted to go to Princeton because I liked that it had the word “prince” in it. If only college were that easy.

In my mind I had two distinct routes for college: an Ivy League or a UC. Why did I think that? For the longest while I tricked myself into believing that those schools were the best choice because they had great professors or a wide variety of classes I was interested in – and that is completely true – but the real reason I wanted to apply was because everybody knows Harvard or Brown, and nobody cares about, oh I don’t know, some small school in Pennsylvania.

I wanted to be the kid who got into a school like Harvard – whose acceptance rate for the class of 2021 was five-point-two percent. Then I started high school.

I have never been an extremely competitive person. I was never the one getting a yellow card during a game and I always hesitated to ask someone how they did on a test. Yet despite my obvious distaste for academic competition, I continued to think, Yes, attending one of the most selective and competitive schools in the world is just what I want and need. Despite all signs pointing me towards a modest, well-respected school with a collaborative environment, I pressed this idea that I would get into Brown or Yale and happily coast through four years of college. Then I started my junior year of high school.

It was during my junior year that I began to realize that maybe an Ivy League wasn’t the place for me; but a second tier school such as Tufts or Pomona was sure to be the right fit. So I visited a handful of liberal arts colleges and had my interviews and thought that I was shoe-in for a spot in the class of 2021.

I thought applying to these difficult schools would give me a sense of fulfillment and pride, even if I got rejected. And then I got rejected, at least from Tufts and Pomona (and a few other schools). I was upset that I didn’t get accepted into Pomona – even though their acceptance rate was at an all-time low of eight-point-two percent – and bummed that Tufts with their 13 percent acceptance rate couldn’t find a spot for me. And after all of these conversations about percent acceptance and average GPA and minimum test score I have come to one gigantic realization: nobody cares. Even if I didn’t end up at my first choice of colleges, I am satisfied with my decision.

So, I did not end up applying to any Ivy Leagues, but I will instead be attending that one small college in Pennsylvania that nobody cares about, and I could not be happier.

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