Now that you know more about the different types of institutions, you may have an idea of the complexity of matching your interests and goals to a college atmosphere. Here at the Admission Masters, we walk students through the following process to create their “college list.”
1. Consider academics: GPA and Standardized Test scores are the first point of entry, particularly for more competitive schools, so students need to make sure their academic qualifications are in line with a given school’s standards. A great resource for this is the US News college ranking website (https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges).
a. At the Admission Masters, we categorize schools into a student’s likelihood of admission: Reach, Possible, Probable, and Safety
2. Consider student preferences* on a range of factors, including:
- Strength of the program (major)
- Prestige of school (rank), taking into account the best-fit ranking according to the student’s academics
- Location (including urban vs. rural, distance from home, and seasonal weather conditions typical for that location
- On/Off campus opportunities
- Social life
- Religious affiliation
3. Consider budget: how much does the family make, and how much can they contribute to the costs of education? While students can apply for financial aid, families above a certain threshold may not be eligible for significant assistance.
- The Admission Masters offers comprehensive financial aid counseling as well as assistance with completing financial aid documentation such as the FAFSA and the CSS profile
4. Conduct research to determine which schools may fit the student’s criteria, and schedule college tours whenever possible so the student can experience the atmosphere for themselves rather than relying on the reviews of others.
5. Ultimately, this process results in a narrowed-down list of approximately ten to sixteen schools that constitutes the student’s “Final College List.”
*A student is not likely to find a college that fits all of their preferences exactly. Moreover, once they’re settled into their new school, students may discover aspects of that school or its surroundings that they didn’t expect. As such, students should identify their “make-or-breaks.” Let’s take Sean as an example.
Sean was accepted to both Cornell and USC. In order to make his decision, he visited both. When he went to Cornell, he strongly disliked the frigid winter weather in addition to the difficulty of the travel process between Ithaca, New York and his hometown in California. He also felt out of place as a Political Science major on Cornell’s heavily engineering-oriented campus. Later that month, he toured USC Admit Day and felt like he “belonged.” He ultimately opted for USC over Cornell. Did he make the best decision?
On the one hand, if a student is not happy, they are not going to learn and grow. However, there is a difference between happiness and comfort — and sometimes, happiness is found in enduring challenges (i.e. the aspect of the school that a student does not like). It is true that where you go is not everything, it’s about what you do there. However, where you can go can make a difference in the opportunities that are presented to you. In Sean’s case, receiving a degree in Political Science from Cornell, a highly ranked Ivy League school, would likely confer upon him more professional opportunities than the same degree from USC (especially since Cornell’s Political Science program is ranked significantly higher). Ultimately, it is up to the student and parent to weigh these factors in determining their “deal-breakers.”
Let’s continue with a few FAQs to the next post.