Stay Away From "Chance Me's"

Chance me for Harvard???

GPA: 5.3/4.0

SAT: 1610

Letters of Rec: 11/10; My teachers loved me and said I was the best student they’d ever encountered in their life, etc. etc. etc.

Extracurriculars: 2x gold medal Olympic figure skater, CEO of three companies, Founder of two charity organizations, Nobel Peace Prize winner…

Okay, what’s this? Well, it’s a “Chance Me” post!! (Yeah, okay, it’s exaggerated for dramatic effect.) If you aren’t familiar with the term, here’s a quick breakdown:

Commonly found on sites like College Confidential and Reddit, the Chance Me Experience™ has two parts:

  1. Someone posts their stats, extracurriculars, awards, how strong they think their essays and letters of recommendations are, and any other background info relevant to their college applications. They also include a list of schools they’re planning on applying to.

  2. Random people leave a comment, letting this person know how good their chances are. In other words, the commenters decide if this person looks like a strong or weak candidate for their planned list of schools, and may provide additional advice and critiques.

Hopefully, you haven’t made the mistake of falling down the “Chance Me” hole and scrolling through the thread for hours. It can honestly get pretty addicting. Maybe you’re bored. Maybe you’re genuinely interested in looking at these profiles. Or maybe you’re sizing up the competition out there, comparing yourself to these random high schoolers in an effort to figure out which schools you have the best shot at.

We’ll say it loud and clear: DON’T FALL FOR THE TRAP.

First of all, the whole comparison game is absolutely toxic (as if the college app process isn’t toxic enough already…). Listening to so many people rattle off their achievements might be cool at first, but the longer you keep scrolling, the more you’ll start to wonder why you didn’t also cure cancer by the age of sixteen. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed by so many seemingly perfect applicant profiles. Mindlessly reading through Chance Me posts is, at best, unproductive and, at worst, unhealthy.

Secondly, it’s very important to remember that these people are in no way representative of the full population of college applicants. The people posting in the thread are just a vocal minority. It’s essentially a bunch of people flexing their hardest so they can be reassured that yes, they’re a shoo-in for that school with a 5% acceptance rate (which just can’t be true). Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everyone out there is as accomplished as the people in this small pool of online users.

And thirdly, Chance Me’s are absolutely meaningless! Chance Me posts themselves are inherently subjective and biased in favor of the person in question. Also, it’s the internet, so remember that anyone could be lying. Don’t forget that the people in the comments are not to be trusted either, no matter how confidently they may present their judgement. The truth is, college admissions are unpredictable and there’s no way to tell definitively who will get in where. You have no way of knowing exactly what colleges are looking for, or what the applicant pool offers, and everything changes year to year.

To sum it up, Chance Me threads are a waste of time! In addition to sucking away time that could be used for better things (like researching schools, perfecting your application essays, or even relaxing and watching TV), Chance Me posts can be unnecessarily discouraging and misleading.

Now, this is not to say that you should completely avoid online college forums. The internet is full of valuable resources that can help you through the college process; it’s just a matter of knowing which resources are helpful and worthwhile (genuine questions with real, applicable answers), and which are not (Chance Me’s).

Reddit and College Confidential, which both house Chance Me threads, can be very helpful. In particular, we recommend the “Applying to College” subreddit, since it’s one of the quickest ways to get up-to-date information about application deadlines, decisions, and other random updates. People also ask and answer lots of relevant questions, and post helpful resources you might not find elsewhere, so it’s good to check from time to time.

Throughout the college application process, remember that it is better to use the abundance of resources available on the internet to improve your individual application, rather than to compare yourself to others. While it doesn’t hurt to get inspired by a particular extracurricular on a random College Confidential forum, always remember that these threads almost never show the full context of the applicant (like the competitiveness of their high school, their geographic location, income, etc.), which is an essential piece of the evaluation process. College admissions decisions are affected by so many complex factors that nobody can ever really be certain of what will happen. All you can do is work hard to make sure your individual application is as strong as it can be!

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