At the risk of going too hard against the grain here, I’ve always found this sort of mentality to be a bit off. Given the high monetary cost, the factor of being away from home, etc., I certainly would have not attended a private school had I not gotten into the one I really wanted to. Some people apply to schools like E/A because they want to attend a specific school, not just boarding school in general, and the “expand your base” mentality simply isn’t right for everyone. (Whether this applies to OP or not is a different situation).
I think it’s the protective part of me that, when I get wind of parents pushing something akin to “PA or bust”, I feel sorry for the kid and really hope they maximize their chances of getting “the heck out of Dodge”.
@confusedaboutFA, I hear you. And sometimes, there is something compelling about a certain school-- a family tradition or a connection to a coach, for example. But more often than not, it’s simply lack of exposure to the alternatives. The reality is that most families do not have a lot of exposure to the BS world, in part because so few students actually attend BS and because it’s often hard to know, within your circle, who attended BS. It’s not something that ends up in a bio like colleges attended do. It’s common to feel for kid or his parents feel their kid is exceptional and that these schools are exceptional so it’s a match!
I suspect the same parents who latch on to A/E or bust mentality wouldn’t require their kid to go to the nearest branch of their public university system only if Harvard and Stanford turned them down. They might look for other alternatives-- and they might even find that a LAC was a better fit. And when looking at Bowdoin, maybe they drove down the road and found they liked Bates even better.
I think what everyone here is saying - again and again- is that what most students love about A/E (or any school with a well known name) can be found elsewhere too. AND what many parents are saying is that they have realized through the process of having kids at BS that many of the criteria they used when their kids were applying are not the ones they would use again.
All of this. The “really want to attend” PA/PE because reasons are often…not fully formed, to put it nicely.