This caught my attention this week after chatting with one of my seniors who is just wrapping up his college applications. I expected our last meeting to be celebratory and relaxed, tying up loose ends and sharing our plans for the holidays. But instead, he threw me a curveball: “I’m thinking about applying to a few more schools.” When I asked him why, he didn’t have a specific answer. It was a little bit of, “To see if I can get in,” and, “Since I have the time.” We discussed his top choice schools, and he mentioned one college he had already been admitted to. When I pointed out that he had already been accepted to a school that he liked more than the colleges he was considering applying to, he immediately recognized the irrationality.
We ultimately landed on the same page, agreeing that more applications were not necessarily a good idea. But as we continued chatting, I started to understand where the impulse was coming from. He mentioned that he had already been admitted to three schools on his list; this is great news, but not surprising considering that these schools were on the safety side of his list. He explained to me that because he was getting such good feedback on his applications, he thought he should try his luck at a few more schools. He mentioned that he had even been looking at the application for Harvard. And it dawned on me that getting admitted to college feels a little bit like getting “likes” on Instagram.
There have been extensive studies on the way social media affects us, how the same parts of your brain are activated when you get likes or eat chocolate or win money. And I can see the similarities between likes and college acceptances: everybody’s doing it, it’s similarly unpredictable, and it’s a pleasurable nod of approval. And in the same way, the number of likes you get on Instagram and the number of colleges you get admitted to don’t really matter.
Yes, it’s a really big deal to get admitted to college. And it’s really important to get admitted to a college you like and can afford. But aside from that, it doesn’t matter if you have one school to choose from or 12. You don’t get a special sticker on your diploma that says you graduated from X University, but you were actually admitted to a bunch of other schools. No one writes the colleges they were accepted to on their resume – just the college they attended. And you’ll never be asked in an interview to list all the places you got admitted back when you were in high school; they just want to know what interesting and impactful things you’ve been doing since then.
So while it might seem exciting to submit one more application and see if you can get one more acceptance, ask yourself why you’re doing it. If you’ve discovered a school you genuinely love that offers different opportunities from the schools you’re already applying to, it might be worth adding to the list. But if you’re doing it for the likes, maybe post a selfie on Instagram instead.