Why Does Everyone Apply To The Same 20 Universities?

Many people chose schools based on certain motivations, such as:

1.) The prestige value: “I studied at Harvard”

2.) To continue a family tradition: “my father went to Duke, so I will be going to Duke”

3.) It’s close to home, OR its far away from home.

4.) It has the program or specialization you are looking for

5.) It might have the extra-curricular activities you are looking for (a good crew team, good night life etc.)

What’s really interesting, is how if you were asked to name all the universities you could think of in the US, you would probably be able to come up with somewhere between 30 and 50 names. If another random stranger were asked to do the same, he would probably also come up with roughly the same number. When we would compared the two lists there would be at least 25 overlaps.

Most people applying to college are usually applying to the same schools – the schools that have top of mind recall, your Harvards and MITs of the world. Only occasionally someone will mention some state schools and even less frequently maybe some smaller schools.

This gives the larger schools a lot of weight and this is why they can be so selective. Think of it this way: How many people do you think are going to be applying to Harvard this year for their undergrad? Even just as a ball park figure, maybe 40,000? How many of these 40,000 people do you think will be accepted? Ball parking again, say 4,000? Those 36,000 people that will not be accepted is why Harvard can chose to be so selective – it has such a large pool of potential students to chose from, and that is why Harvard in this example can have ridiculous entrance requirements, because it knows it will find people who will fulfill them.

Now let’s think of something else. How many universities are there actually in the US? 1000? 2000? There are in fact over 4000 schools in the USA alone! Yet we can only recall 50! And almost everyone is applying to those same 50 schools over and over again. You’re probably thinking “Okay so there are 4000 schools, but its not like those 4000 schools are all good, otherwise I would have heard about them”. Fair enough. Let’s think of something else, lets for the sake of argument, say out of those 4,000 schools, half – that’s 2000 schools – are just bad. They are the type of schools parents don’t want their kids applying to and kids don’t want to go to those schools. How many does that still leave us with? Approximately 1,950 that are decent, most of them are good, and some of them are even very good! Why don’t people apply to them? Because they don’t even think about a world beyond the top 50.

These 1,950 schools are great schools, they give you a great education, they put you in a very competitive position when you do graduate and are looking for a job. They are good schools. Students need to collectively break the monopoly of the big 50 and look at some of the less known (but just as good) schools.

If you are applying, or thinking of applying, do your research, there are some great sites on the internet that let you do searches on all of the schools we have spoken about and can be filtered by program, size, location, fees, basically every criteria you can think of, to give you a list of 50-100 schools that you can work with and find what you really want to do.

We will be highlighting some of these tools in the future, so do check back!

Happy hunting!

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