Did anyone else's child create too narrow list and limit their options?

When you are dealing with 17 year olds making major life decisions this is the way it goes! But at least she’s being realistic and it’s not the opposite that they are all reach and super competitive schools. That would be far more dangerous. Hopefully she’ll get some great merit offers and find the school that she’ll be happy at!


@TS0104 Yes, she is happy with her safeties. As long as she is happy at her school of choice and does well, that is what matters. And also, yes, she needs to be “done” at this point, even though it wasn’t a ton of schools. But, the ship has sailed at this point, so now we wait. And hope that when she actually visits the schools, she likes what she sees in one of them enough to go. That was another frustration – she ruled out schools even without seeing them. But we will visit whatever schools she gets into and she will decide.

@SuntasticMom I totally agree, at 17, they don’t always know what they want or what to look for. But you are right, at least she erred in the direction of having more options.


My D20 wouldn’t listen to any of my advice. Now here we are, sophomore year, and she doesn’t like the school she is at and is looking to transfer to some of the colleges I originally suggested to her. Turns out our home state isn’t so bad after all…


I also immediately thought of this wonderful old thread and was starting to look for it when I saw your post. I somehow found this thread very reassuring when my son was going through the process a couple of years ago - although to be fair, I probably avoided more schools than he did for stupid reasons (including by avoiding all Midwest schools - and naturally he ended up in Ohio!).

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Funny - I was just going to link this as well. It was fun and insightful. Sometimes there is not a “good reason” but still a reason.

I will reiterate what has already been said, but I think it is very common for kids to choose or reject schools for reasons that make no sense to the parent (you might be interested in these threads: “Colleges your child crossed off the list after visiting, schools that moved up on the list. Why?”, and another one that is entitled something like “stupidest reasons your child didn’t want to apply to a college”. My son’s list did have some reason to it, but there were definitely choices that did not make sense to me and schools he visited that fell off his list for reasons I didn’t understand. He got in ED to a school that I would not have placed at the top of his list, and the more I think about it, the more I think it is the perfect place for him despite the reasons I originally perceived it to be a mismatch. The only thing I did in terms of crafting his list is insisting he apply to a school he hadn’t seen because it was so much like another school on his list that he had seen. It was a reach school and I wanted that one to be an option, just in case (he got in there EA too). If he saw a school and refused to apply, that was fine. Kudos to your daughter for picking safeties. Most of the time the problem seems to be the opposite, namely, kids who only want to go to schools they probably won’t get into.


My son rejected schools outright, some without setting foot on campus, because of the architecture! :rofl:

Here’s where the rubber hits the road. The idea that a more selective school is the better school is a completely oversold concept in the college search. Eighty percent of college grads year in and year out say they were very satisfied with their college experience, no matter where the school fell on their list. The success cake is baked in high school. If your student is happy with easy admits, that’s awesome! It’s her life. She will make her way. She will be fine.


My D22 refused to apply to MIT for exactly that reason (“ugly buildings”), even though her GC (and I) thought it would be a good fit (assuming she beats the odds and gets in). She, however, wouldn’t budge - it came out later that she also sensed that MIT students were too busy (“if you’re sleeping, you’re doing MIT wrong”) and she didn’t want that type of an experience. Fair enough.


All that matters is that they end up with one offer of admission from a school that is affordable.

Because there are so many schools out there, it’s easy to winnow it very rationally (and that process is fodder for at least half the threads on CC.) But it doesn’t really have to be that way if a kid’s interests are broad and they are easy-going about environment.

It’s kind of like house hunting - some people really need only one story, a certain school district, near train station, etc. Others may have preferences yet be willing to buy something completely different if they love it…


My DD third child did the same thing. Has a sibling at different schools and added one additional school. Only applied to three total.

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And I have one who wouldn’t apply to Alabama because “houndstooth isn’t a color.”


Our first kid applied to only 7 colleges. But as a music performance major, auditions for more would have been a challenge. And there really were no safeties because in music performance…there are not safeties.

Second kid initially applies to 3 colleges. And really we should have left it at that because she vetted schools well before she applied, and these three were her top choice. All were well within reach of acceptance (she applied EA or rolling to all and was accepted to all before Christmas). No reaches. She asked to add a reach, and we asked her then to do a parent choice. Those two applications were a waste of time and money.


My eldest wanted LACs all the way, but a serious reliance on merit money meant she also had to include the big Auto Merit places such as Alabama. Her list comprised 3 of these and the rest small LACs where students of similar stats got merit acc to this site and CDS.

By the time spring and decision time arrived, she had decided that LACs were too small, and she wanted to explore a bigger school. She chose Alabama and their residential liberal arts program called Blount, where the cohort live and take core classes together: a little bit like a LAC on a larger campus with football, sorority row, business school etc etc.

Phew, that worked out OK then.

Next one has several reachy competitive merit apps at medium sized schools, some LACs and the big auto merit places: all bases covered this time!

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We weren’t thrilled with our D’s list of schools either but they were right for her, and now that she’s a senior, I can’t imagine a better place for her than where she landed.

Her GC was the one who had her add an reachy school otherwise there wasn’t going to high reach on her list. It was a wasted application fee because it just wasn’t a good match.

I’m in the camp that there are so many schools out there, that even silly reasons to not look somewhere helps narrow things down. ; )


I guess I need to add…neither of my kids “limited their options”. But both did significant vetting of schools before they applied.

When I looked at the colleges a few years ago with my S, we considered factors other than academics, but never cared too much about aesthetics, food, or geographies. We visited about 30 campuses (and considered even more) in every region of the country. Some are truly beautiful. A few are ugly (e.g. HMC), but we tried not to be swayed by their appearances. We weren’t choosing a vacation destination or hospitality establishment for the next four years.

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Just adding in that when my daughter was a high school senior last year the biggest thing she was influenced her was other students at her school. They would poo-poo a school for no good reason at all and then she was on board with that. It was very frustrating. Senior year is a challenging year for both students and parents! Hang in there!

P.S. Amusing story – Last year D’21 would eliminate schools saying “that’s a party school” This year while she loves her school she complains there aren’t enough parties! Of course I am sure to remind her that she didn’t want that last year! LOL.


I don’t think the limited number of reach/match schools is a concern. Options are important though, especially since kids change and sometimes what they want shifts during this process. In my D22’s later stages of making a list I’d run down various scenarios. We felt confident all were good academic fits with interesting programs, but the issue was location and student experience. She ended up adding two east coast schools as a result.


My son limited his options based on the driving distance to his GF’s college. (Plus her college changed in November based on where she was admitted as a transfer student.)

Fun times!


My kiddo had a tough time making any kind of list. He ended up applying to 8 - with only one reach (not a top 30 school). Most of his schools are in the 50-75 ranking in USNW and fall into the safety/likely/match category (except for his 1 reach). He is not in love with any school and sees colleges as all somewhat similar within their lanes ( LACs, rural public university, urban public etc). Originally I thought he should include a couple of additional reaches, but on further reflection I’m glad he didn’t want to do it - why spend time and $$ on applications to schools where you have little chance of admission. Sure, there is the occasional surprise (you can’t get in if you don’t apply), but more often than not, apps to reaches end up in rejection. I think he will be fine wherever he ends up - especially since he doesn’t have a “dream school” that he is fixated on.