Rationalizing college dreams

Jacob Goodman

There is too much advice in my life right now. And it’s all about college. My dean, parents, friends, other deans, admissions officers, are endless supplies of application edits, acceptance percentages, and other relevant college data.

And all that data seems to have the same message: Manage your expectations and be reasonable about where you might be accepted.

I understand that the people in my life don’t want to see me hurt if I’m not accepted into my first choice school, and they also want to make sure I end up somewhere that I’ll be happy. But it is sucking the hope out of applying.

College is a huge step in life. You’re moving to a new place where you can grow and learn and basically live on your own for the first time. I’m looking forward to it all, but it’s hard to be hopeful about it when I’m constantly being reminded to make sure I shouldn’t have too much faith in the system.

I’m a fairly pragmatic person, but even I like to believe that that magical moment where I’m accepted early into the school of my dreams could happen. Granted, my first choice is a bit of reach, but too many people have tried to persuade me to try a school that I have a better chance of being accepted to.

It doesn’t help.

Applying to college is full of choices: on apps, recommendations, essays, everything is a choice. And there are far too many of these choices for me to constantly doubt the ones I make.

I’ve been receiving brochures and emails from colleges for about six months now. They’re mainly from places where I’m applying and want to go to, but occasionally I’ll get one from those places that in actuality I don’t want to go to, but are such storied and privileged schools that I can’t help but feel good about myself for being on their mailing list.

Again, everything that I have been told says to remember that colleges are just trying to increase their yields and get more students interested in them. Don’t apply, I’m told, they don’t really want you. Try the schools you can get into.

I get excited, though. I see those mailings and think highly of myself. Those brochures are compliments to me, false ones, but it feels good to think that I’m being sought after.

The problem with my college process, at least, is that there is a lopsided imbalance between support and rationalizing. I’m a smart kid. I understand the risks of applying and how the process works and where I can maximize my chances.

I do understand that it is my counselors’ and parents’ job to make sure I’m okay and end up in a good place, but I feel that the choices I am making are sometimes being undermined by the constant refrains of “Are you sure? You do have a better chance of getting in here. Why not try this school?”

There needs to be a balance.

Support is just as beneficial, if not more so, to the college process than logic and reasonable expectations.

I’m not looking for that logical, guiding voice: I already have it. I just need to know I can have faith in it. There may be longshots involved, but I need to be able to go for those risks.