Be Loved by a Few than Ignored by All
Applying to college is sales. You identify prospects, understand their goals and needs, align your value with those goals and needs, and close (aka sales done the right way, not used car salesmen’s high-pressure tactics that aren’t effective over the long haul).
But too many people take either 1) the shotgun approach (apply everywhere and hope for the best), or 2) they stubbornly continue to shoot deep 3-pointers like Steph Curry (applying only to Ivy League schools with low numbers and no demonstrated excellence outside of the classroom) when their game is better suited for layups and mid-range baskets.
In sales, it all starts with prospecting
Prospecting is one of the most important keys to selling, no matter if you’re selling pots and pans door to door or selling $100k+ solutions to businesses. It is 100% critical to identify the right target.
No matter how good you are at “closing,” if you’re going after the wrong target, it’s going to be an uphill battle. You don’t sell kitchenware to college students in freshmen dorms without kitchens. You don’t sell expensive enterprise software to the corner mom-and-pop liquor store.
You can try to sell someone on a product they don’t truly need, but they’re less likely to buy it. We all know that. Or even if they do, it’s probably just to get rid of you (for small ticket items…with high value items, forget it, you’re toast) and they won’t be happy with their decision as their hearts never bought into it.
Prospecting is also key to college admissions
You can go after a university that doesn’t need what you have to offer as a candidate. But first, your chances to get accepted are lowered. And even if you get in, because of that poor fit, you won’t grow and do as well as you could have elsewhere.
If your personality and aspirations of being an engineer would fit well in a large public school with huge resources, programs, and student body, then focus on institutions like that. If you need more personalized attention, those same schools are probably not a great fit for you, and you might want to look into smaller private schools.
Similarly, compatibility also applies to your finances. If Stanford is going to be $60,000+ per year and you won’t be able to secure the aid you need, then it might make sense to consider other options in order to avoid debt.
Prospect better by understanding your ideal target school
Be the perfect candidate for a few schools, rather than a decent candidate for all schools. To be super attractive to some, you inherently have to be less attractive to others, because the traits that each school seeks at times can be fundamentally different (and mutually exclusive).
One woman might find nothing more irresistible than the clean-cut hedge fund manager in his three-piece suit and spit-shined Oxfords, while that same gentleman might have no luck whatsoever with the artsy crowd.
Remember, the immediate goal is to get wins (in the form of acceptance letters). Stop wasting shots (and money) by shooting blindly. To rack up wins, be loved by the perfect few than be ignored by all.
Who are you perfect for?