They’re like grocery lists, except way more stressful, and you can’t go back to the store if you forget something. Hella high stakes.
College Lists are ridiculously hard to come by, for several reasons. You have to consider a myriad of factors, especially when applying to schools with low acceptance rates. It’s a careful tightrope walk between Strategy, Happiness, Money and Personal Health. Which is why I am currently struggling to come up with one, because I have horrible balance.
- Strategy: You’ve all heard the old adage. “Apply to an even mix of safeties, reaches, and matches.” Yeah, okay thanks. But then, which reaches? Do I leave my dream school off if there’s no chance, or apply, even if it means taking away fee money from a school I have a better chance of getting in? How many schools do I apply to before they provide diminishing returns on my application quality? Shotgun or Surefire method? You could see how this all becomes very confusing, very quickly, when trying to establish a college list which caters to your dreams while covering bases for reality.
- Happiness: Where in the world would I be happy? What even makes me happy? As someone who doesn’t have the luxury of visiting any schools that happen to lie outside my state boundaries, I’m kind of strapped for luck. I have to go off of my gut feelings of the website, brochures, viewbooks, and students I happen to meet or talk to. Do I want liberal arts, a big university, small student body, big dorms, intramural clubs, a wild party life, seventeen libraries, small student body, a lot of school spirits and events, none of the above or all of the above? Should I apply to this school over that school? One minute I love Emory, the next I’m dying to go to Tulane, three seconds later I am sporting my USC gear. It’s hard to figure out.
- MONEY: The big one. Sure, I wish I could just pay the application fee for every school I wish to go to, cross my fingers, and hope for the best- unfortunately, no such luck. With state school prices at $75, and selective institutions charging an arm and a leg, you have to play a choosing game of which school you want to go to more, and which school is more likely to take you in, making those $80 bucks worth it rather than wasted. Plus, can you even get financial aid there? (Aka how my dreams of going to the University of California were dashed).
- Personal Health: The most overlooked and underrated element of building your college list. People who apply to over 15 super competitive schools are pretty much superhuman, and I pray for them. Schools nowadays have all kinds of supplemental essays to write and fill out, many which require deep thought and reflection (an energy-sucking, time-consuming process that need not be underestimated or overlooked). There is a special kind of stamina and time-management necessary to properly fill out over 14-15 applications decently (i.e. time to revise, get advice, sound good, and not submit at 11:59pm at the deadline), with enough time left for sleep, relaxation, homework, and fun. Honestly, you are screwing yourself over if you don’t make personal health a huge component of your decision. 9 paper heavy apps can be just as bad as 16 average ones, so trying to get that balance of ‘maximizing my chances of getting in’ and ‘maximizing my chances of passing out’ is really delicate, and pretty hard to achieve unless you are at your 7th app and ready to slam a knife down your throat (assuming you have 7 schools chosen to begin with. UGH.)
When you look at all these factors in conjunction, it’s easy to see some conflicts. Do you forgo strategy in the name of maintaining sanity? Can I sacrifice happiness now to get happiness later? How much is my happiness worth, and am I willing to pay absurds amount of money to have a shot at it? Can I even afford to take the strategy I want? All complex questions, each with their own tightrope, and one intersection with no safety net below, where perfect balance and your ideal college list exists.
Lol and that’s me.
Ah, I long for the simple days when I debated between getting white or brown eggs at the grocery store. O, innocence, where art thou?
How are you coming up with your college lists? Comment below.