Try, apply and never look back. What great advice! I found this gem at the end of this list of myths about college.
The gist of this advice, by Steve Loflin, founder and CEO, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, is that if teens are interested in a particular school, they shouldn't let the belief they can't afford it or can't get in stop them from applying. Instead, teens should do their best and see what happens. You'll have more regrets if you don't try than if you do. And if you give it your best shot, you might get in; if you don't, you move on to the school that wants you. Loflin even noted that some recruiters or potential employers ask where the applicant applied to college, finding that as revealing as where they attended.
Of course, parents may be realists and understand the likelihood is slim for admission to a certain school. And of course it would be foolhardy to apply only to those schools considered a reach. But maybe sometimes parents should keep their pragmatism to themselves. Hey, you never know.