So I'm debating applying to two high-reach schools. While I am still trying to decide which, I have worked with a professor at one of those top tier schools. If I ask him to write me a recommendation letter, how much will it actually help my application? My GPA is in the lower-range, but I meet the academic cut-offs. If I got in it'd be a dream, but it wouldn't be my #1 school. (Mainly because of expense reasons). If I got in, I would just use it as bragging rights. It sounds bad, but I feel the need to prove myself to my friends and family because I plan on going wherever I receive the most merit scholarships.
Edit: I feel the need to explain myself to those who took this too literally. If I got in, I would certainly consider going. Why would I apply if I knew I wouldn't attend? The odds of me getting in are very rare. And to those who said I was uneducated about financial aid–I understand families making $200,000 still sometimes receive need-based aid. My situation is more complex than that. Furthermore, I have done a multitude of things for this professor, and he has offered to write me a recommendation letter, so it's not manipulation.
Getting a personal recommendation from a Professor that works at the college you are applying is an inside track not that dissimilar to having The Dean of Admissions put in a nod to the admissions team to give a 2nd look at an applicant because they like them. When you use & leverage clout, it comes with a cost. In your case, if you got accepted you'd owe one to that Professor and you'd have to figure you the best manner to return the favor.
But from your intentions of only using the possible acceptance as "bragging rights" and stating "it wouldn't be my #1 school", it's clear that would be actually manipulating the Professor for your own selfish purpose. Furthermore, if you got in would be denying someone else getting into their college of choice. If that were the case and you were one of the last admits, your actions would bump someone to the waitlist for no meaningful reason.
It not only sounds bad but it is bad. You should have the maturity to understand that if your family can not afford certain types of colleges or those colleges don't have the kind of financial assistance you need, that doesn't entitle you to mess around with someone else's dreams. It's like writing Willy Wonka for a Golden Ticket only so you can flip it on Offer Up to the next highest bidder for your own personal gain, not because you wanted to gain admittance to the Chocolate Factory.
If your friends and family do not respect you for your academic acumen now after knowing you for such a long time, then how are they going to respect you for denying a deserving applicant admission to their dream college so you can flex that you got in.
I'm also going to give you some benefit of the doubt that you actually wrote this without you doing enough research into Ivy/Elite colleges. There are at least 75 top schools that meet 100% of financial need. https://blog.collegevine.com/schools-that-meet-100-percent-financial-need/
If you do not know what this means, is that unless your parents are millionaires and you are trust fund kid, almost all Top colleges work with applicants closely on creating a financial aid package that makes a 4-year college education affordable for you and your family. You may have to take out some small loans like $5500 per year or do work-study and contribute earnings from your summer job but that is doable for 99% of applicants. If you are smart, most colleges will figure out how you can attend their institution. And on the college board site, you can run NPC (net price calcs.) on at least 1/2 of those colleges from one place to give you an idea of cost. Remember the bigger the endowment, the more flexible the financial aid package is.
https://admissions.yale.edu/affordability-details#whoqualifies You will be surprised that at Yale families that earn between $150,000-$250,000 still qualify for between $30,000 and $60,000 of annual aid.
Also, I don't know want kind of relationship you have with your parents but they are on the hook to contribute to your education if you decide to apply to any college and apply for financial aid. They have a fiduciary obligation to fill out the forms and disclose their income. When it comes to your education, colleges will advocate for you. You need to empower yourself with more information about financial aid and the options you have. Perhaps you need to educate your parents as well.
[So I'm debating applying to two high-reach schools. While I am still trying to decide which, I have worked with a professor at one of those top tier schools. If I ask him to write me a recommendation letter, how much will it actually help my application? My GPA is in the lower-range, but I meet the academic cut-offs. If I got in it'd be a dream, but it wouldn't be my #1 school. (Mainly because of expense reasons). If I got in, I would just use it as bragging rights. It sounds bad, but I feel the need to prove myself to my friends and family because I plan on going wherever I receive the most merit scholarships.]
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