How Exactly Are We Supposed to Do This?

I’m an incoming Sophomore, and I’m just blown away by what’s needed for T-20 schools. To anybody successful, has made a T-20 school, or just wants to share their input - how the actual hell are we supposed to do this? We need to maintain a high GPA while taking college level classes, discover a passion early on in our life (some people discover it in their adulthoods!), develop it to an incredible degree, have stellar extracurriculars related to our major, establish a strong relationship with teachers, while maintaining a social life. I don’t know how the hell I can get started - not to mention that I’m not sure on what I really enjoy and want to pursue. Any input is very appreciated.

Sometimes, even if you do all those things, you still end up with a handful of rejections. You should do what you love not because it will help you get something, but because you love it. And if you don’t know exactly what you love yet, that’s okay. You are young, and you have time.

Or maybe consider not targeting the elite schools. At any school you will be expected to successfully manage academics, extracurriculars and a social life.

@jym626 How would you define successfully? I’m doing well in school right now right now. I’m in a couple of clubs and athletic teams, have a chill group of friends, and have a good GPA. By successfully - what exactly do you mean? Also, do elaborate on consider not targeting the elite schools. Isn’t it a goal of many? Is there a specific reason as to why you think that I should avoid targeting the elite schools? Thank you for replying :).

@ski_racer Hopefully I’ll still be able to succeed later on. Thanks for responding!

As a parent, I see the impossible position you are in because of the vague (, ie, holistic) college application process, it feels like the TT schools are asking for perfect students, which is frustrating to say the least. I totally agree what @ski_racer stated above, do what you love, and you will be rewarded by the knowledge/friendship/growth you gain, regardless of where in the end you are going for college. Look around you, there are happy adults living fulfilling lives, and where they went for college, more likely than not, has no bearing on their wellbeings and happiness.

@wontonandrice Pursue what you want at the level you find comfortable and let the chips fall where they may. As you enter your junior year, start doing research about the kinds of schools that you might enjoy (urban/suburban/rural, small/medium/large, Greek life/no Greek life, sporty/nerdy/well-rounded, etc.) Then craft a list of likelies, matches, and reaches that have those preferred qualities, support the majors that you might pursue, and are affordable for your family. Maybe you get into your top picks, maybe you won’t, but you’ll go somewhere where you can thrive and be happy.

It sounds like you are doing exactly what you should in HS - you have a good social life, sports, clubs, and good grades. If by senior year, you have maintained at least a 3.8 unweighted GPA, have strong test scores, good course rigor, meaningful ECs, and a top 10% rank (assuming your school ranks), then you will be competitive, along with the many other students just like you that are applying for the few spots available. Apply, by all means, but keep your expectations low and balance your list with schools where the odds are are better.

My point, @wontonandrice, is that its often unhealthy for students to take on that degree of stress to push themselves to the limit in order to possibly be competitive for the elite schools. To be “successful” in college is to graduate, hopefully with an ok GPA (depending on what you want to do after college). If you do decide to pursue a professional school, you’ll need a good college GPA (~3.5 and above, depending on career), but to be “successful” in college doesn’t necessarily require you to have a stellar GPA. Colleges want you to graduate, do well in your selected profession and donate back to the school. Schools are a business. No one is saying you should aim for some elite, but you need to be aware of the incredibly low admission rates. And sometimes its better to be the top of the middle than the middle of the top.

There are a few things I think students get confused when determining their direction. First is that a school determines whether or not you will be successful. I believe it’s the things you do that will lead you to success. The second is that where you go to school is an indication you are successful. Going to a T20 may say something about you but in and of itself is not an indication of success in the longer term. Third, I think students can get the search process backwards. Rather than worrying about getting into a T20 spend the bulk of your time and effort finding a school you would like to go to that is affordable and you are assured admission. Find that and you are on your way to finding success. Then you can apply to anywhere you wish. You can still wish and hope but your success is not tied to another’s seemingly arbitrary decisions which often have little to do with how successful you can be. Your undergraduate years are 4 years or about 5% of your life. Once they are over their impact will seem less important than they do to you now. Good luck.