There is a simple piece of advice for college applicants that guidance counselors don’t tell you. You don’t need to get accepted by an Ivy League school to go to class there.
If you want to get a degree from that school, eventually you’ll need to get accepted, but there are ways around that too. I got rejected from Columbia University twice, but eventually sweet talked my way in. And got a degree for half the price of my classmates.
If you go to a high school counselor to find out about college, you’ll get a lot of advice (or maybe just a lot of applications). But they never offer up the most valuable piece of advice that I learned: you can go to any school you want. If you try hard enough.
I’m not talking about having a high GPA or great SAT scores (though those help). I’m talking about the fact that any potential student can take classes at basically any university they want. You won’t be a matriculating student, but you can change that too, with a little work.
Take my example: I went to SUNY Geneseo for a year and then studied abroad in Europe (paying low state school tuition). When I got back, I decided I wanted to transfer schools. My mother, who had been a New York state public school teacher for 30 years, told me to pick a school I wanted a degree from and start taking classes there.
At first I didn’t believe that this would work. Why don’t college counselors inform students that they don’t need to fill out the common app as a high school senior to get into a good college?
I had fine grades in high school, but I never would have gotten into the Ivy League then, and I didn’t bother applying to any at the time. When I got back from studying abroad, I got a job and looked around for the best school I could commute to from my parents’ house. That was Columbia.