If you want to improve your chances of getting into a prestigious college, here’s one effective way to do it—find five other colleges you have never heard of but would be just as happy to attend as you would be to go to your dream school.
Whether or not you actually end up applying to them, the process of looking for and finding colleges you’ve never heard of that are right for you makes you focus more on the colleges and less on their names. You'll think more about what you’re looking for in a college, what you expect your experience to be like and what you hope to get out of your time there. You'll become more discerning. At presentations and on tours, you'll ask more insightful questions than, “What’s the average SAT score for students you admit.”
And more importantly, you’ll start to realize that there are hundreds of great schools out there, that you could be happy at lots of them, and that the difference between the first ranked school and the 100th ranked school would be almost indistinguishable if you took their names away.
You’re not going to impress Harvard by telling your interviewer that you’re applying because Harvard is so prestigious. If you’re choosing colleges based on their prestige, it’s time to look deeper (and think more deeply). Becoming a savvier college shopper will help you get into lots of schools including the famous ones.