Aim Higher: The Achieve Blog


Pete discusses the biggest mistake that students make when applying to college and how to avoid it. He states that due to the pandemic, admissions rates are dropping and the college admissions landscape is changing. The mistake that many students make is focusing on one single dream college, which can lead to severe disappointment if they don’t get in. Instead of searching for the perfect school, students should determine what they want from a school and then search for the schools that best match their criteria. They should also keep an open mind and look for a range of schools with different levels of selectivity, such as reach schools, target schools, and safety schools. Doing this can help students find the right school for them.


0:00:00 Hi, it’s Pete from Achieve Tutorials, and today I want to talk about the biggest mistake students make when applying to college and how to avoid it. But first, if you haven’t, please click on the link below to subscribe or to follow us. 

The college admissions landscape has changed. It’s always evolving, but the pandemic really accelerated the process, and now students are finding themselves in a really uncertain admissions landscape.

0:00:30 Application numbers are way up, admissions rates are way down, and legacy admissions don’t give you the advantage they used to. Colleges are changing the kind of students that they’re looking to admit and the kind of student bodies that they’re trying to enroll. But a lot of applicants are stuck in the past, and this is often because their parents don’t understand how the process has changed. 

So the biggest mistake kids make is getting fixated on one school. Focusing on one single dream college can be really risky, especially when admissions rates are dropping. You can risk severe disappointment if you don’t get in.

0:01:10 Plus, focusing on that one school can often detract from your applications to other schools. So instead of trying to figure out that one school that would be perfect for you, you need to figure out the type of school you want to go to. Try to figure out the kinds of things you want from a school, and then search for the schools that best match those things that you want. For example, which schools have good programs in the fields that you want to study?

0:01:35 Which schools have the kind of social life that you want to engage in? Do you want a large, Rah rah school sports experience, or do you want a small-town liberal arts college experience, or something in between? Do you want to go to the East Coast, to the West Coast? Somewhere in the middle, maybe even overseas? 

I want you to keep an open mind in this process and find a range of schools that offer the things you’re looking for with different levels of selectivity. Of course, you apply to some reach schools, the one, two, or three schools that you might have a shot of getting into, but it’s not a great chance.

0:02:06 And apply to some 50-50 schools, but also have some really good safety schools on there that you’re likely to get into, that you would attend if you got in. There are more than 2500 4-year colleges to choose from in the United States. There are literally dozens or hundreds of colleges for each individual student that would provide a really good, positive college experience. So don’t get fixated on that one place.

0:02:32 And a couple of final tips before I leave you today. First, there is no shame in not getting into your top choice colleges. The process is like a roll of the dice. And sometimes when you roll the dice, you get lucky. But a lot of the times you don’t. And you have to accept that that’s just part of the process. Second, don’t compare yourself to the students who did or didn’t get into those same schools.

0:02:55 You’re not them. You don’t know their story, and you don’t know why a college made the decision that they made. Next, don’t let your fan status cross schools off your list. If you’re a lifelong UCLA fan, don’t cross off USC or Oregon just because. Unless, of course, your family would completely disown you. 

And finally, don’t look back. Take advantage of what lies in front of you and the options that you have. Go out there, be you, live your life, and stay curious. All right, that’s it.

0:03:26 I will catch you guys later. Thank you for listening. And if you haven’t yet, please subscribe to our YouTube channel or follow us on Instagram. And if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us through our website, Thanks.

Back to the main Blog

More Blog Posts: