Why Attend a Highly Competitive College?

With over 2,800 American colleges and universities to choose from (and even more in Canada and overseas), the task of selecting a school may seem daunting--if not nearly impossible at times. The Reach High Scholars Program has created a list of around 85 colleges and universities that are generally deemed to be "highly competitive," prestigious and well endowed, which means that, contrary to popular belief, they are very affordable. Focusing primarily on these schools can help narrow the list for students who wish to get the most out of their college experience, and definitely the most bang for their buck.

Students may be wary of applying to these colleges because of the seemingly low chances of acceptance, high sticker-prices, anxiety about thriving and feeling supported and other sources of skepticism about whether or not it's ultimately "worth it." Below you can find a few major benefits of attending a highly competitive college that we think make navigating the tumultuous college application process more than worth it. It may lead to some pleasant results and life-changing opportunities.

 

1. Generous financial aid offerings – highly competitive colleges are cheaper and want low-income students

Most highly competitive colleges and universities (particularly private) have large endowments built over decades from alumni donations. They have more financial aid to spread across smaller student bodies and therefore are able to meet a larger portion of a student's demonstrated need. At many of the nation's most competitive colleges, at least half the student body receives some form of financial aid for all four years, and many of these packages contain large grants from the college that students will not have to pay back. Most aid at competitive colleges is need-based, though many colleges also offer merit-based scholarships.

 

2. Challenging academics and an intellectually stimulating community – being surrounded by other smart students is fun

By the very nature of their status, many competitive colleges have high standards for admission, which tends to result in a community comprised of students who share a love of learning, commitment to active global and local citizenship and a strong work ethic. What's more, many professors at competitive colleges are top researchers, scholars, and thinkers in their fields. Small seminar-style classes yield more direct contact with them and allow you to sustain beneficial intellectual relationships with the professors --as well as with your fellow students.

 

3. Access to more sophisticated resources – enjoy top-notch physical facilities and dorms

Competitive colleges often demonstrate a high commitment to offering their students only the best in resources to equip them to explore, pursue, and develop their interests both in and out of the classroom. In addition to the large portion of their endowments that goes toward financial aid, they also invest considerable amounts in resources and facilities. The results include extensive libraries and research databases, state-of-the-art lab equipment, beautiful performance halls, and top-of-the-line sports facilities. Attending a competitive college affords you easy access to tools that will enrich your academic and extracurricular interests.

 

4. Networking and career development opportunities – access incomparable job placement and alumni connections

Of course, it is inevitable to think about what happens after the four years you'll spend at college. In an increasingly competitive job market, nervousness about employment and "what comes after" is perfectly understandable and normal. Attending a competitive college grants you access to career development services that benefit you both while you are at college and after graduation. Well-trained career advisers can help you regardless of where you find yourself in the process--from résumé services to practice interviews to career fairs and panels to advice on searching and applying for jobs and internships.

Many career development centers also provide access to lists containing information on thousands of internships that allow for real-world occupational experience while still in college.

Finally, attending and graduating from a competitive college also provides you another invaluable resource: your fellow alumni. Competitive colleges foster strong alumni relationships--both between the alumni and the school and between alumni and each other. The result is an extensive support system of alumni who--in addition to your faculty--are well-equipped to provide networking and other career-enhancing opportunities that can better enable you to integrate your education and experiences into a satisfactory career.