The College Application Season: What Matters is Not What You Think


Throughout the college application and acceptance season, anxiety, tension and stress tend to run rampant among high school seniors and their families. Have you done enough extracurricular activities, community service hours, taken enough AP classes, and developed enough award-winning apps to gain admission to a top school?

We have convinced ourselves that if one does not attend an elite school, life will be a complete failure. Private and other competitive high schools have an incentive to promote this idea. Part of their sales approach is based on the claim that if you attend, you have a better chance of getting into the elite colleges. Colleges also enjoy the prestige and increase in applications that flow from high ranking in the U.S. News and World Report and application competition frenzy. This is good for business, but not for those who are applying.

A student and adult sit in front of a computer discussing the college application process and what matters most.

Does where you go make a difference?

Many of us assume that attending an elite college is the path to fame and fortune (or at least fortune). It turns out that there is definitely economic value in attending and completing college. But the surprise is that, for most young people, your earning power will not be impacted by where you go. In fact, economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger have reported that for students with comparable SAT scores, there is no earning advantage to attending an elite school unless you are a minority or a first generation college student.

So what does matter?

Twice a year, the American College Health Association surveys large groups of college students. Among the items in the survey is a question about problems that negatively impact academic performance. The most commonly reported items are stress, sleep difficulties, anxiety, depression, cold, flu and sore throats. Students report that major roadblocks to their success at school are issues in their emotional life or behavior. How you feel and what sorts of life choices you make while in school will have more impact on your school success than you imagined.

This suggests that finding a school that is a “good fit” for you – a place where you will feel comfortable and supported – is a much more important consideration than its name or prestige.

To learn more about what is important in school choice, check out the Finding Your Best Fit section.

Stop worrying about getting into that special elite school. Take a deep breath. It will not make as much difference as you think. There are plenty of schools at which you will receive an excellent and well-rounded education. And if you work hard and learn a lot, this will help you on the way to a successful career and life. But, as you start to consider where you will go to school, think about how well each will fit you. This will make more difference than you imagine in keeping you on track for later success in school and in life!

This article was adapted from The Huffington Post, originally written by Dr. Victor Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer at The Jed Foundation.

Check out the original article here.

Want to hear more from Set to Go? Get updates about Set to Go and other JED news.

By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails from The Jed Foundation (JED). View our Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Contact Information.

Go to Video...