“It worked for him” is not a strategy for you

This kid Kwasi Enin is killing me.

For years, I’ve told audiences that when I hear a kid say, “I want to go to an Ivy League school,” I know that student isn’t going to get in. He’s got namebranditis. He’s in love with prestige rather than with any of those particular schools. He’ll likely want to apply to all of them in the hopes of getting into one. And it will never work. Nobody has ever once disagreed with me out loud.

Then Kwasi Enin went and got into all the Ivy League schools.

I’ve never met Kwasi Enin, but I can’t even imagine how impressive he must be in person. He should be proud of what he’s accomplished. 

But I’m also cursing him just a little bit. Because from now on, every time I use my “Applying to all the Ivy League schools is a terrible idea,” somebody is going to point out that Kwasi did it and it turned out just fine for him. 

In every sense of the word, Kwasi Enin is remarkable. Nobody gets into all the Ivy League schools. Fewer than eight of every 100 applicants got in this year, and less than 1% of kids who go to college do so at an Ivy League school. That’s why Kwasi is front page news. 

The fact that it worked for Kwasi doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you. You’re twice as likely to be killed by a vending machine than you are by a shark. But no sane person is going to refrain from getting a Pepsi because they’re afraid of the machine, and nobody should take Kwasi’s results as a reasonable expectation of what can happen to them.

I’m not anti Ivy League and I’ve got nothing against kids wanting to apply to schools that reject most of their applicants.  But when you decide that the only acceptable outcome for your hard work is to get a yes from a school that rejects most of its applicants, especially if that interest is based on the fact that the school is part of a particular athletic conference (that’s what the Ivy League is, by the way), you’re going down a path that gives too much power to the schools and too little credit for your hard work.