College applications: How do you encourage yet manage expectations?

I was talking to a friend with an extremely bright high school junior who is has been receiving tons of information from colleges. She could very easily go to any number of high-quality state or private universities, but she has set her sights on an Ivy League school.

My friend wants to encourage her daughter to reach for the stars, but also wants for her to understand that just because she’s one of the smartest, most successful kids at her high school, that doesn’t mean she will be accepted to this Ivy League school.  (The cost of this Ivy League school is another whole blog. If you get into the school will they want you badly enough to offer you a scholarship? And if not, is it worth spending that much money on your undergraduate degree?)

You don’t want to crush her belief in herself but you do want to help her manage that expectation.

So what is the right approach on this? What have you told your college-bound students as they have applied to colleges or started receiving their acceptance letters?

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