Every year, news articles are published about a student or two who received acceptances from all eight Ivy League schools. Why are students blanket applying to all Ivies even if just one of them might not be a good fit? Some students without the means to visit many campuses or who hope to leverage financial aid offers against each other might cast a wide net. However, students who have the means and ability to put time into the college research process should craft a list of schools where they will truly thrive.
When considering the Ivies, it’s important to note that each of them vary from each other in their campus settings, missions, pedagogies and values. Some have dedicated architecture, business, or engineering programs available to undergraduates while others support more interdisciplinary exploration of academic interests. Dartmouth students are minutes away from hiking and skiing opportunities in rural New Hampshire, while Columbia undergraduates have New York City’s entertainment and internships at their immediate disposal.
As such, we believe no student should apply to all eight Ivy League institutions, nor any school, just for the sake of applying or because of the prestige associated with earning an acceptance. Students should take a strategic approach when creating their college lists, but while many students are aware of the strategy of having a balance of reach, match and safety schools, it is equally important to identify schools that offer the resources, opportunities, location and culture that best fit them. Students should thus spend as much time researching how each university they are considering suits them as they do analyzing those universities’ overall rankings. All of the Ivies are great schools, but that doesn’t mean they all offer a great fit.
We encourage all juniors in high school to start researching colleges now and to be intentional and thoughtful about their college lists. How did some of the students who were in the unique position of deciding between all of the Ivies make their choice? One student chose Yale after visiting the campus and enjoying the friendliness of fellow students and the school’s residential college system. Another student originally also chose Yale, but changed his plans as the pandemic forced him to reprioritize the presence of a support system nearby in Boston, leading him to choose Harvard.
Given the plethora of resources available online, it is easier than ever to determine your own priorities for college and figure out which universities will offer you the best fit. Even if you can’t make it to campus for an information session or tour, you can attend virtual information sessions. Additionally, CampusReel is a website that houses thousands of videos showcasing different colleges and experiences to be had on campus. If you are unsure where to start, Command Education has a college list generator that will create a list of safeties, matches, and reaches tailored to each student’s unique preferences.