Treat Applying to Princeton as if your were applying for a job
Too many kids agonize at this time of year over whether Princeton is a better fit for them than Williams or Harvard or Stanford. Few will have a choice of even one of these schools, and if you do wind up getting accepted to one of these schools, there will be enough time in April to visit the one, two or three (if you’re super lucky) that have accepted you. That's assuming that you have already visited your match and safety schools.
Treat applying to the elite schools as if you were applying for a job. You wouldn’t agonize and overanalyze about whether the cultural fit was right before applying for jobs at General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft or Google. You'd know that your chances of them saying yes would be low. You’d apply and worry about whether the fit was right after they offered you a job.
An application to Princeton does cost you more than a job application (but it’s still not much, when you look at the total cost of an education, and the amount you could save in financial aid if you get in to Princeton or a comparable school). You will also have to answer a few more essay questions to apply, but completing a college application is nothing compared to the work you will do at any college.
Don’t treat applying early action as a major decision. The reason it may look easier to get into a top school through early action is because the application pool is much different – often loaded with athletes tagged by the coaches for admission slots, for example. Apply early action to one school and move on.
If you are in range of getting into an elite school, my best recommendation is to apply to a fair number of top schools (avoiding super-reaches), and then apply to a reasonable array of matches and safeties, including financial safeties. The match and safety schools are where you’re likely to wind up going, so concentrate your efforts on getting to know those schools. If you are fortunate enough to get into one of the hyper-elites that has a tiny admissions percentage, deal with it when they say yes and forget about them until they do.
Last edited by EarthPig; 10-08-2012 at 04:11 PM.