Who Needs Harvard?

Competition for the Ivies is as fierce as ever, but kids who look beyond the famous schools may be the smartest applicants of all


James Sanchez of Espanola, N.M., turned down Harvard to attend Davidson College, a smaller college in Davidson, N.C. .

It's the summer before your senior year, and you're sweating. The college brochures are spread across the table, along with itineraries, SAT review books, downloaded copies of Web pages that let you chart the grades and scores of every kid from your high school who applied to a given college in the past five years and whether they got in or not. You're hunting for a school where the principal oboe player is graduating, or the soccer goalie, so it might be in the market for someone with your particular skills. You can be fifth-generation Princeton or the first in your...

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