By now, you’ve probably compiled a preliminary list of schools which interest you. At this time you many want to carefully evaluate your choices and come up with the final list of schools to which you would like to apply. If you create a balanced list, you should have several schools to ultimately choose from. Your list should include a mix of safety, reach and target schools.
Condensing your preliminary list may seem like an impossible task because no one school meets all of your criteria. That’s why it’s a good idea to list your criteria in order of importance to you. For example, Jacques Steinberg, editor of The Choice, suggested five considerations important to choosing where to apply:
▪ The academic rigor of an institution
▪ Geography and demographics of a college and its location
▪ Class offerings of a particular program of interest
▪ Cost of tuition
▪ Chances of admission
Using information from school visits, on-line research, info sessions and other sources, rank your criteria for each school on your preliminary list. Base your research on reliable sources and understand the information you are looking at. For example, although published ranking reports may provide useful information, it’s important to understand the standards used to establish these rankings. Make sure the same standards are of equal importance to you and do not rely solely on these reports to compile your list of schools. Using a variety of sources of information will allow you to identify the schools that are truly the best fit for you.
It may be helpful to reach out to current students you know to get their perspective on the school. Ask them the questions you really want the answers to – the ones you don’t want to ask in an info session. Do you know any recent graduates to connect with? They may also be a great source of information.
Reflect on your gut feelings. How did you feel when you visited the school (personally or on a virtual tour)? If you sat in on a class or ate at a dining hall, think back to what you observed going on around you. Can you see yourself there for the next four years?
This is also a good time to have a discussion with your parents about the costs of attending college. Make sure your list includes schools that are both on target and a reach financially to ensure that you will be able to afford to attend a college of your choice.
Ultimately, many things make a school right for you. There are over 2,500 colleges and universities in the United States and there is more than one perfect school for you. Using your parents and guidance counselor as your sounding board, think about what type of college experience will best suit you. Take the time now to compile a list of your requirements, do your research and put together a balanced list of schools, and you should have more than one option later.