How Do I Choose Which Colleges to Apply to?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

5 Ways to Narrow Down Your College List

College ListWith more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the US, it can be difficult to nail down exactly how many colleges you should apply to. As juniors embark on the college admissions process (and visit schools over Spring Break), now is a great time to make a preliminary college list. Here are some of the most common mistakes we see students make and some tips from Dr. Kat to help you narrow your focus.

Mistake 1: Applying only to reach or dream schools

Solution: Make sure the list is balanced. Have a conversation with your high school college counselor to see which category each college on your list fits into given your academic and personal profile: reach (less than 30% chance of admission), target (30-60% chance of admission), or safety (greater than 60% chance of admission). You need one DEFINITE safety school at the very least. Ideally, you should apply to 2-4 reach schools, 3-5 target schools, and 2-3 safety schools. If you have 8 reach schools on your list, then start cutting!

Mistake 2: Applying to schools because of a great visit

Solution: Write down the pros and cons of each college. What would you pursue at the college both inside and outside the classrooms? While visits are important, you should have done your research on each of the schools and know professors, courses, extracurricular activities, resources, community service, study abroad, and internship opportunities at each college. This will help you decide which campus communities are good matches for you.

Mistake 3: Only applying to schools based on their names

Solution: Get beyond the colleges’ names and get into their experiences.

Try this. Cover up the names of the schools and just discuss academic course of study, professors, activities, organizations, student population, resources, the surrounding community, etc. Take the names out of the discussion. When you focus on the experiences, often the truth comes out and some colleges will be cut even though its name was a very attractive one.

Mistake 4: Focusing solely on the location of the college

Solution: Consider the location of the college and the cost of traveling to and from home. Some students get excited about going far away, across the country, to college. But the reality of being so far away may be daunting once you are actually living there. Think about location and community. What kind of community would make you most comfortable?  Urban? Suburban? Rural? What does the surrounding community/town/city offer?

Mistake 5: Only using one source to research a school

Solution: Use as many sources as possible, including college guidebooks, talking to counselors, teachers, students and alumni and if possible, visit the college during the academic year. In a guidebook, a college may look as if it fits the bill perfectly. It’s not until you get up close and visit that you see a more complete picture. If you can afford the time and expense of doing some college visits it can help you edit your list! Often you get a gut feeling about the college as soon as you are on campus. You’ll instantly know if the community is a good match or not. Seeing what it is really like to be at the college (especially if school is in session) helps make the decision to keep the college or cut it from the list and is often the tie-breaker.

Our admission counselors are experts who understand the admissions process and can provide the most up-to-date information for students and families involved in the college search and admissions process. Schedule an Initial Consultation today to discuss your college list with an IvyWise counselor.


Related Topics

Choosing a College, College Admissions Trends, College Visits
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