Parents, imagine your son came to you one day and said this:
"Someday, I want to marry a blond lawyer who's really good looking. So for now, I need to work hard in school so she'll think I'm smart. I'll play soccer because I think women like athletes, do community service so I can show her I'm a humanitarian, and I'll keep thinking about things blond lawyers like so I can try to do them. I know it won't be easy, but I'm sure that this future blond lawyer is my soul mate. That's the goal I've set for myself."
After you got over the shock that your teenager is already planning a marriage to someone he hasn't met, you'd probably ask him why it has to be a good-looking blond lawyer (and why he's so sure that all good-looking, blond female lawyers want the same thing in a husband). You'd probably tell him that it doesn't make sense to do all those things just to try to win someone over. You'd tell him not to make decisions based on what he thinks a supposed future wife would want, that he should just be himself and wait to find someone he loves who will love him back for who he really is.
Now, substitute "I want to marry a blond lawyer" with "I want to go to an Ivy League school."
Why should a parent's response be any different?