College is literally a match to be made, not a prize to be won

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It’s a match to be made, not a prize to be won. As a reminder from concerned parents, a joke from mocking friends, or as advice from a college counselor, we’ve all heard this mantra about the college process.
The continued repetition of this phrase has transformed it into a New Trier cliché. Students sarcastically mock it because of its seemingly inaccurate portrayal of how New Trier students treat the college process.
For many, selecting a college seems like nothing less than a competition.
Especially junior year and first semester senior year, when students conjure up a list of schools to visit and to apply, everything seems like a competition. Who can apply to the most prestigious schools? Who has the best chance at acceptance?
During this time, many students attempt to hide their list of top choice schools from friends or classmates to avoid increasing the competition. While all of this secrecy and tense competition is taking place, it’s hard to focus on finding the school that may be the best personal match instead of the school most highly ranked by the US News and World Report.
Not only is there an external competitiveness among students, but many are in competition with themselves to get in to the “best school” possible. It feels like more of an accomplishment to get in to your reach school than it is to get into your safety school, so students are always trying to get in to the most academically challenging institution on their lists.
Students also strive for validation for all the work they did in high school. They want to feel like the difficult class they took or the time they spent studying to get a higher ACT score was worth it.
For many, going to a school lower on the list that may not have required the higher ACT or GPA they earned; it doesn’t validate the work they’ve done.
Annually, US News and World Report releases numerous rankings, which place universities, liberal arts colleges, universities by region, and more. It takes no more than five seconds to enter a school’s name in the search bar and discover where it is ranked in all these lists.
For an extra $29.95, additional lists ranking programs and average accepted GPA and ACT scores are also available. While many people unquestionably believe to these rankings, the qualifications for achieving a high rank are sometimes unknown by students. A university gains a higher ranking for many reasons unrelated to undergraduate education.
In addition to average GPA and ACT, acceptance rate, and course rigor, factors like funding and graduate education also contribute to rankings. These are things that most prospective students do not need to consider when selecting a school. With this knowledge, it is clear that these rankings should not be the end-all-be-all when comparing colleges. Selecting one college over another simply because of its ranking is not the best method.
As decisions file in and some seniors face rejection from elite universities, they have time to reflect on their true priorities. When deciding between schools, many struggle between choosing the best ranked school to where they are accepted, and a school that may be ranked lower but is more appealing.
To those who face this predicament, our advice is to forget the rankings and go where you really want to go. Attending a school simply because it is “prestigious” will not set you on the best path for success.
Sacrificing four years of your happiness will not outweigh having a personalized college experience.
Once you choose your school, even if it is not the school you originally intended to attend, if it is where you believe you will be happy, there will be unlimited opportunities. Once you’re settled in to your school and the competition stops, it is clear that college is a match to be made not a prize to be won. Although we make that into a joke and mock and roll our eyes at our college counselors when they preach this, it is true.
Once you’ve made that match, you have truly won.

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