Mistakes in the college search process

Choosing a college is one the most important decisions in life. It is a huge investment in time and money. However, many students make mistakes in the college selection process that can be easily avoided.

Following prestige
The top colleges in the country provide excellent academic opportunities. However, colleges with less well-known names also offer unique opportunities with outstanding outcomes for alumni. A recent Gallup poll concluded the experience a student has in college is more important than the type of college attended.

Not visiting
Colleges spend huge amounts of money to market to prospective students. The pictures in the view books and websites are beautiful and are meant to make students want to attend. However, pictures cannot capture the feeling one will have on campus.

Following others
Just because a college is a good fit for a sibling or friend, it does not mean it is a good fit for everyone. College is the place for one to grow as a person and discover passions. However, attending an institution that is not the right fit can be detrimental to the college experience.

Believing “sticker price” is actual price
Sticker price is the published price to attend a college. However, millions of dollars in financial aid is awarded to college students every year by these colleges. Before taking a college off the list, students should review the net price calculator at all of the colleges they are considering and see how much financial aid could potentially be offered. There is even a chance a private college could be less expensive than a public institution.

Letting family dictate college choice
Parents want the best for their children and sometimes take the driver’s seat in the college process. However, parents are not the ones attending college. Therefore, while it is okay to listen to the thoughts and opinions of parents, students should consider colleges that feel right for them.

Going away to get away
Teenagers are notorious for wanting to move out of their home after graduating from high school. Many think they have to go far away to college to get away. However, living on campus is an option for all students at most colleges, even if the student lives a block away from campus.

Being hasty
The college search process is very time consuming when done properly. When the search process is left until the last minute, students cannot truly research and discover the wonderful opportunities colleges can offer. Instead, students choose colleges based on other criteria that are not helpful in finding the right fit.

The college a student ultimately attends will be a place they will spend four years of their lives. This is why students should avoid these mistakes, research and find the colleges that are the right fit for them.

 

Scholarship Saturday – July 19, 2014

The deadlines for the scholarships that were on this list have passed. To see scholarships that are still accepting applications, visit more recent Scholarship Saturday posts.

Reach, Target and Safety Schools

When you start thinking about building your college list, the terms reach, target, match and safety will be used. However, what do these terms really mean? They refer to the type of colleges you should consider.

Safety School
A safety school is one that will most likely accept your application for admission. The college is most likely to accept you if your high school grades and test scores are well above the school’s average.

Target or Match School
A target or match school is one that will probably accept your application for admission. Your high school grades and test scores will fall into the middle range when looking at the school’s profile.

Reach School
A reach school is a college that you might have a chance of getting into, but something in your academic profile is on the low side when looking at the school’s profile.

Far Reach School
While a reach school is one that you might have a slight chance of acceptance, a far reach school is one that is very unlikely to offer admission. Your academic profile will fall short of the admissions averages when looking at the school’s profile.

School Profile?
You should be able to find the school’s academic profile somewhere on their website, usually in the admissions section. Another place you can find this information is Collegeboard’s Big Future website. Not only does it provide a college matching search engine, it has admissions statistic provided directly from the colleges.

Now that the types of schools have been defined, college applicants need to understand that there is no guarantee that a student will be admitted to any school – safety, target or reach.

  • Deadlines are important. If even one part of your application is not turned in on time, your application may not be considered at some colleges.
  • You must follow directions. Admissions committees are looking for specific items and if you do not follow directions, it can ruin your chances of being admitted.
  • The holistic admissions approach considers a lot more than the numbers. While GPA and test scores are important, many colleges consider more. In addition to the essay, extracurricular and volunteer activities and interview, other things may be considered. Did you know that things such as your social media presence and your expressed interested in a college could come into play in the admissions decision? Holistic admissions decisions can be very subjective.

Note About Top Colleges and Universities
Many of the top colleges and universities in the United States have very low acceptance rates. For example, Stanford University had the lowest acceptance rate in 2014, accepting only five percent of the students who applied. While many of the students probably met and/or exceeded the average GPA and test scores of the previous year’s accepted students, many were not admitted. Therefore, top colleges and universities with low acceptance rates should never be considered a safety or target school.

How Many Of Each College Should Students Apply?
There is no specific rule that says that a student should apply to a certain number of schools. Some students apply to only one, while others apply to many more. There was even a recent article that that told the story of a student who applied to 43 colleges. Most students apply to 5 – 7 colleges. These numbers are much more realistic.

There is also no rule that says you need to apply to a specific number of safety, target and reach schools. While I do not think you have to apply to a reach school, you should definitely have a few target and safety schools on your list. Reach schools are a dream, and if you think there may be a shot, I say go for it! You do not want to ask yourself in the future, “What if?”

If you ever have questions about your chances, get someone else’s opinion. Your guidance counselor or an educational consultant should have some insight into your chances of admission. You can also reach out to the admissions office at the colleges you are considering. The admission counselors at many colleges make the admission decisions, or at least play a role in the decision process. Reach out to them and ask questions not only about the college, but also about your chances. Some counselors will be more open than others, but most will give you some information.

Last Piece of Advice
Do not select a safety school just because you have to have a safety college on your list. While I hope you get into your first choice, it might not happen. All of the colleges on your list should be places you feel you will enjoy. Dig deep – a college that could be a considered a safety school for you could be the best fit. Research and visit colleges to make sure they feel right for you.

If you need any help building your college list, I can help you build your list. Contact me with your questions.

 

Above photo credit  – “Matthew Hall, Harvard Yard” by Ian Lamont licensed by CC BY 2.0

Scholarship Saturday – July 12, 2014

The deadlines for the scholarships that were on this list have passed. To see scholarships that are still accepting applications, visit more recent Scholarship Saturday posts.

 

Is Middle School Too Early To Think About College?

Absolutely not!

While I do not think students need to focus on the colleges they will be attending in the future, middle school students can definitely start preparing for college.

What can middle school students do now to plan for college?

  • Take challenging classes. Take classes that challenge you, versus taking the easiest classes available.
    • Math – Aim to take Algebra in middle school.
    • Foreign Language – the majority of colleges require students to take a foreign language in high school. Taking a foreign language will give you a head start.
  • Do well in your classes. Do your homework and study. If you need help, ask for help from teachers, parents or tutors. The classes and grades you receive in middle school have a direct correlation to the classes you will take in high school.
  • Find extracurricular activities you enjoy. Take the time in middle school to find the activities you truly enjoy. Colleges want to see students that are involved in meaningful activities. Start early finding what you truly enjoy and dive in to the activity. By the time you’re in high school, you’ll be able to start taking on leaderships roles in that activity.
  • Search and apply for scholarships. A big misconception that students and parents have is that there are only scholarships available for high school students. Wrong! There are many scholarships for younger students. The easiest way to find out about scholarships is to sign-up with a scholarship website such as Fastweb. Once you provide some information about yourself, Fastweb will give you a list of scholarships that meet your qualifications. In addition, as new scholarships are added to the database, you will be notified.
  • Think about what you want to do when you grow up. It is not too early to start thinking about this. The earlier you start narrowing down the list, the earlier you can start trying the careers out yourself by doing deeper research, talking to people in the professions and even interning/working in the field.

Middle school students can also start exploring colleges. While it is easy to set your mind on one college, I encourage students to explore different college options. Many colleges out there are outstanding, including colleges you may have never heard of yet. Middle school students can attend college fairs and visit colleges, but your main focus during middle school should be to prepare for college in general.

 

Above photo credit: “Beautiful Earth (Bella Gaia) program…” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC by 2.0 | Text added to original.