One of the most important tasks that juniors will undertake as they begin the college process is to form a balanced list of colleges in which to apply. What are the factors to consider when forming this list? The number one goal should be to find a good fit between the applicant and the school. Finding a good fit will most likely equal a successful and happy college experience. The main parameters to take into consideration are academic match, financial need, geographic desirability, size of the college, campus culture, and athletics. If you already know your desired major, then it is important to determine the availability of that major at the different colleges. It is best to go into the process with an open mind and explore all the possibilities. The beginning stage is one of learning about the different colleges. Learning about the different college options can be done by online research, touring colleges, reading informational college books, speaking with current college students, attending college fairs, and consulting with your high school college counseling office. Visiting colleges is a great way to get a first hand feel for how you fit in. The summer between junior and senior year is the perfect opportunity to visit multiple campuses. Remember to attend the informational meeting after your organized tour, as that is your opportunity to ask questions. Make sure to sign in with the Admissions Office, as many schools keep track of demonstrated interest.
After your initial list is formed, you will continue to define and shape the list into a final one. It is best to start with a larger list and then narrow it down into a smaller list. In fact, your final list may look very different than your initial one. College admission has become increasingly competitive and I would recommend forming a well rounded list of approximately ten to twelve schools. It is best to think of the list as being comprised of four categories. The categories would be that of solid likely, likely, probable admission (50/50), and statistical reaches. The list should be well balanced with at least two or three of the schools falling into the likely category and no more than a third should be statistical reaches. Most students do not want to receive a large number of rejection letters and applying to more reach schools does not necessarily increase your odds of being accepted to one of them. Also, you should only put schools on your list that you would be happy to attend, especially when considering your likely schools. I would set the beginning of October as a target date for finalizing the list of schools that you wish to apply to. This will give you enough time in which to comply with all testing requirements, complete all personal statements and supplemental essays, and file the applications ahead of the deadline date. The application process can be daunting and overwhelming, especially when filing many applications. Therefore, setting up a timeline with deadlines can help you to stay on top and in control of the process. Most importantly, start early. Starting early is the key to having an enjoyable and stress free senior year. Good luck and please feel free to contact me at Pamela@HelpingHandCollegeGuidance.com with any additional questions that you may have.