What they don’t tell you about “dream colleges”

Deciding where to go to college is the first big choice you will make for yourself. It’s all up to you—the location, the size, the level of difficulty, the subject you will study. We, as fortunate private school educated students, are told for years to dream big and apply ourselves in high school and thus will have endless opportunities. That being said, when college decision time rolls around in the spring of senior year, so many realize that the options are much more limited than anticipated. Those dreams of attending a beautiful, prestigious university are easily shot down with one simple letter of rejection or, even more commonly, one quick look at the cost of attendance.

Ivy League schools like Brown University with a 9 percent acceptance rate can only accept fewer than 3,000 applications of the 30,000 they receive each year. Even valedictorians and the athletic tri-sport captains aren’t guaranteed a spot in the freshman class of these types of schools. Many BSM seniors had to face this fact around the end of March, when letter after letter came pouring in. If your application list only includes top-tier schools, April could be a very depressing month for you.

The second reality check could come when statements of student aid arrive in the mail from the schools you actually were accepted to. Even with the FAFSA, merit-based scholarship,s and possible private scholarships, the cost of attendance is likely to be a big stretch for your family. Honestly, few can afford to pay $55,000 a year for college.

Colleges love to boast that they provide need-based aid to ensure that they have an economically diverse student body and money doesn’t play into your college decision, but the costs at private colleges or out-of-state colleges leaps year after year into unattainable prices, and the aid is often only a small percentage of the total cost.

This editorial is not meant to deter students from applying to Stanford, Boston College, Middlebury, you name it. But, sometimes these schools just aren’t feasible for many reasons. When exploring the college process, set your standards high and dream all you want—there are magnificent universities all around the world—but make sure to have “back-ups” that you truly love. This way you won’t be disappointed when you have fewer options than you expected.

The most important piece to remember is that success isn’t gaged by how nice the dorms, athletic facilities and cafeteria are at your undergraduate institution, nor how “prestigious” its name is. If you keep your mind and options open, you might find your dream school to be different than you ever imagined.