Why Apply to More Colleges If You've Found THE One?

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I am planning to be a criminal justice major, with a focus on forensics. My parents agreed that John Jay would be the best college choice for me because of its focus on this field. My parents were talking to a few other parents who told them they're crazy for letting me focus all my efforts on John Jay because I am ranked first in my class and have high scores. Now my parents are saying I need to apply to a few of the Ivy League schools and some other colleges that these parents convinced them would be better for me. I don't agree. Should I apply anyway and then just go to John Jay if I get in? It seems like a waste of MY time and not really theirs.

While “The Dean" finds it refreshing to see students ranking academic aims over perceived prestige when making college choices, I do feel strongly that you should lengthen your list. Although you may indeed end up at John Jay next fall, you are limiting yourself by applying only there. For me, a senior citizen, I find my priorities changing more often than I might have expected and, for adolescents, such changes tend to be even more frequent. So your goals and interests this fall may shift surprisingly by spring.

Moreover, I've often said that one important part of going to college can be the “going" itself. You don't say where you live, but I'm guessing that you may have grown up in or near New York City. John Jay is largely a commuter school, with only three percent of all students coming from outside New York, and with just a handful residing in college dormitories (which are a 15-minute subway ride away from classes). So have you asked yourself if your focus on John Jay is because you believe it's the best place to study criminal justice, or are you actually wary of leaving your childhood home? As you make your plans, I urge you to consider that question and to also consider the value of living full-time in a college community away from home in a horizon-expanding environment.

In addition, it sounds like your grades and test scores are so far above those of the typical admitted John Jay freshman that it's hard to imagine that you'll be fully challenged and engaged in the classroom. Sure, there's something to be said for being a “star" at school, snagging the best internships and faculty research-assistant jobs. But — according to the College Board — at John Jay, the median SAT scores barely top 1000, and nearly a third of John Jay students enter with a high school GPA between 2.0 and 2.99. It's possible that John Jay is really the right fit for you, but it's something to examine carefully through the lens of this information.

There are countless colleges that will lead you to a future in forensic science ... if you don't veer off on a new path, that is (and more than half of all collegians do!) You can certainly apply to Ivies if you want to take a shot at the most sought-after institutions, but there are plenty of places with programs in criminal justice or forensic science which the Ivies don't provide and where you can concurrently sample other academic offerings, live on campus, benefit from the many outside-the-classroom learning experiences that this will allow and where you will be among peers who share your intellectual gifts. You don't need to apply to dozens more colleges, but with even minimal research, you will most likely come up with several possibilities that actually excite you.

Yes, of course, keep John Jay on the list. But there really should be a list right now so that you'll have options in the spring. I think you'll be glad when you do.


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