I think you can get to a lot of places, using different paths. It helps to know where you want to go to find the cheapest, easiest path there. Like if you want medical school, any state undergrad will do. You will still be eligible for medical school, still be a doctor. If you want to be an investment banker, Harvard and Yale might give you a leg up in connections. Getting into a good MBA program. etc. DD didn't get into the Stanford AI4all program, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. She wants deep, deep ocean robotics stuff. And she has been to AI conferences. And Stanford was a intro, generalist program. She found a great marine science/technology program at a coastal U. In hindsight, Stanford was prestigious and ego boosting but not the right fit. The universe pointed her in the right direction.