Want a scholarship? Do you even know why you want a scholarship?

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Apple knows that its new iPhone 7 will be significantly more popular than its larger counterpart, the iPhone 7 Plus. There’s no good reason to pay the extra $100 unless you’re really into camera features, or you just like big phones.

So Apple purposely stocks fewer of the 7 Plus’s. When stores run out of them faster, the 7 Plus seems more popular. If it seems more popular, more people will buy them. Businesses use this trick all the time, called “social proof.”

Colleges do the same thing.

Want people to think you’re a hard college to get into? Just increase the admissions standards. Want to seem like you’re the most prestigious college? Make it the most expensive. Want people to think your college has the best teachers? Call yourself The Ivy League. People will believe you.

Athletic scholarships work the same way. People are often more attracted to the status a scholarship brings than they are the money itself. Yesterday, a widely circulated article reported the story of an elite Division I swimming recruit, who at age 17 was two-tenths of a second away from qualifying for the Olympic trials. She ended up committing to UCLA with a $22,000 yearly scholarship.

UCLA costs $62,000 per year — you can do the math.

The reason she still committed to the school was tucked at the bottom of the article:

“As it turned out, it wasn’t UCLA’s championship history or the sunny Southern California weather that sealed it. It was something (Coach) Gallagher offered beyond money: a belief in her swimming potential that no other coach emphasized.”

Photo by Jim Fitzgerald

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