How to Decide Where to Apply

Choosing the colleges you apply to is not as easy as it may seem. Too often, students and parents simply “decide” to apply to colleges whose names they know. This often includes institutions that are not a good fit for the student, even though the choice gets a positive nod from their friends and family. The most important thing to remember is that the colleges you apply to should be a good fit and match for you academically, socially, emotionally, and financially. This is not trophy hunting!

How does a family find these colleges? Naturally, I hope that you will get professional help from someone like me who knows the college landscape nationwide, and who has the student’s interests as a guiding force.

When I meet with a student, the first thing I try to learn is how much the student knows about him/herself. I have an in-depth conversation in which I ask questions designed to reveal the student’s learning style, motivation, interests, and lifestyle. I factor into this mix the family’s ability to pay for college and any other constraints, such as a diagnosed learning issue or family requirement.

studentNext, I review the student’s transcript, school profile and test scores. I also recalculate the unweighted GPA so that the student has a realistic view of where he falls in relation to the colleges I recommend. This allows me to narrow the 3500 colleges in the U. S. to about 15 that represent a good fit and match for the student.

After the student has researched the colleges and, hopefully, visited those in which s/he has strong interest, a short list of eight to 10 institutions who will ultimately get an application emerges. The list should include three to four Likely colleges (a 75 percent chance of admittance), three to four Target colleges (a 50 percent chance of admission), and two to three Reach colleges (a 25 percent chance of admission).

The percentages are based on where the student’s grades and test scores fall when considering the middle 50 percent of the college’s published statistics. These numbers represent the Match for the student. If the student’s test scores are an issue, know that there are almost 1,000 colleges in the U. S. who are either test optional or test flexible.

I know that this sounds complicated, but if you take a step-by-step approach to the process, it works well. Remember, just because a college was a good fit for Uncle Harry 25 years ago, it may not be a good fit for you. Similarly, you will get bombarded by advice from well-meaning, albeit, uninformed people about places that would be “great” for you. They do not know your numbers or you as well as they may think. Keep the following in mind:
• Every college is a good college for someone.
• Any college can be a “party school” if that is what you are going to college for.
• Where you go to college is less important than what you do when you get there.
• How well you do is about you, not the college.

Here are some resources to help you get started:
1. For a do-it-yourself primer on college planning: https://www.cklaar.com/service-offerings-and-fees/college-admissions/
2. College Board’s Big Future https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/find-colleges
3. College Raptor https://www.collegeraptor.com/college-search
Good luck and remember that help is available even if all you want is a beginning list!

If you need more help with this or any other aspect of college planning, please call me at 803-487-977 or email to [email protected]

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