Parental and Peer Pressure or Appropriate Colleges?

Peer Pressure and College Admissions, Ivy League and Peer Pressure, Parental Pressure and Admissions

Don’t let your parents pressure you into where you want to attend college (photo credit: Jawed Karim).

Dear Ivy Coach,

I have a 3.8 out of a 4.0 GPA with a 32 on my ACT and I’m planning on applying to Stanford University Early Action. I have 5 AP’s this year and each class requires an hour a night of homework. Also, with extra time spent studying for exams, I have not been able to participate in any extracurricular activities. My parents understand this, but my guidance counselor is now telling me that I don’t have a shot at Stanford. I just don’t think she’s right and would love to hear your thoughts. Oh, and thanks for all the great information you give out on your website. I’m always following your tips and advice.



In looking to form a well-rounded class of talented students, highly selective colleges are seeking students who have demonstrated intellectual curiosity, a special talent, personal initiative, or have made an impact on their school and community. While a student who spends all of his free time studying and doing homework is admirable and fine for many colleges, highly selective colleges also want to see students who are engaged in activities outside of the classroom.

Andy called us after he sent me the e-mail, and when we asked him why he was applying to Stanford, he admitted that it was parental and peer pressure that prompted the idea. We know that he was disappointed when we told him that we concurred with his guidance counselor, but then when we asked him if he would rather hear it now or after he applies, he agreed that he needed to know before he put the time and energy into Stanford’s application essays.

Together, we then compiled a list of appropriate colleges where Andy has a decent chance of getting accepted. The list includes some “reaches,” some “possibles,” and some “likelies”. Many of the colleges on the list are not the “usual suspects” and so his peers will not even have heard of them, but that’s okay. Andy is now going into the admissions process knowing his strengths and his limitations and applying to colleges that are appropriate for him.


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