I think you already know the answer. Desperation is never healthy for you and, as in most cases, can blind you to the bad fit between you and the object of your affection. The reality is that there are numerous best fit colleges out there for you. You can be amazing and have a wonderful experience at all of them. If you feel you have to change yourself to be accepted anywhere: at a particular college, in a group in high school, with “friends”, that’s a clue that being in that place, with those people, is not right for you. You know this deep down, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking this question.
Just like with friends, your best college is one that is excited about you as you are about them. You are an amazing human being. You’re smart and you’re motivated (otherwise you wouldn’t even be considering MIT). You have a lot to contribute to make the world a better place (otherwise you wouldn’t be participating in extracurriculars). You need to be you, and let the colleges come calling.
So to stop obsessing about MIT (you don’t have to forget about them completely but do stop obsessing), and start looking for other colleges that have what you want from MIT. Want to go to school in Boston? There are LOTS of colleges there. Want an engineering school? There are plenty of those across the country as well. Want a school with a famous name—well, that’s going to be harder, unless you already have a famous name, too. (Like Malia Obama or Emma Watson, who could literally apply to any college and be accepted.) The more colleges you learn about, the less you will obsess about a particular college or “League.”
Take a look at the Colleges That Change Lives (ctcl.org). This is a group of small liberal arts colleges that focus on undergraduate teaching. You will get a great student-focused education at any of those. Visit the College Board’s Big Future site and use their “college search” function to find colleges you’ve never heard of that fit your criteria. Create an account at Raise Me, and find out how much merit aid you have already earned at lots of different colleges, and then investigate them. Talk to your school counselor or independent counselor about creating a college list that fits you.
TL;dr Don’t change yourself for anyone. You are perfect the way you are, and there are a bunch of colleges out there that will think so, too!
This answer was first published on Quora on June 19, 2016. Follow me on Quora for more great content!
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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