Seven is a lucky number for many, and it’s also the perfect number of colleges to apply to. As you build your college application list, make sure you have the right mix of colleges: 2-3 “reach” schools, 3-4 “likelies”, and 2-3 “sure things” based on your academic profile and the colleges’ published middle-50% ranges. However, even if your academic profile falls into the colleges’ standardized test and grade point average ranges for admitted students, nothing is guaranteed! Here are a few more tips for creating your ideal college application list…
Find Your Major
You do not need to decide right now what you will do for the rest of your life. However, it is good to include on your college application list schools that offer coursework, majors, minors, or concentrations in academic areas that pique your interest. It sometimes helps to think about your favorite classes and teachers in high school — let that help guide your college search as you narrow down options. If you are undecided, make sure you apply to colleges with a variety of academic options. Seek out colleges that are doing cutting-edge research that excites you. Look for faculty who remind you of your favorite teachers.
Your college application list should be your own. Ultimately, you will attend college for the next four years. While I recommend you consult with parents, friends, and advisors, this is your college application journey — own the process. You should only apply to colleges where you can picture yourself being happy and intellectually-fulfilled. If school spirit and game days are not your thing, skip those colleges known for diehard fans and top-notch athletics. If it’s not your dream to attend an Ivy-league school, let it be known. Just because a certain college worked for your cousin or parent, it doesn’t mean it’s your perfect match, too.
Consider the colleges you may know best! Having attended Duke University, which is only 30 minutes away from my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, I definitely appreciated my familiarness with the area and the proximity to my family… but I also made it clear to my parents that they could not just drop by whenever they felt like it! Don’t fall into the trap of overlooking some great local colleges. There are many benefits to attending college closer to home: you may enjoy preferential treatment in the admissions process by being a local applicant, not to mention some financial perks — think about the money you’ll save by not having to purchase plane tickets during school breaks! Even though you’re close to home, you can still have college experience that feels like you’re miles away.
Don’t limit yourself based on geography. If you dream of attending college among the palm trees of California, you should absolutely include some west coast schools in your college application list. In fact, some majors are dependent on their location. For example, it’s hard (but not impossible) to study marine biology without proximity to the ocean. Make sure you do your research to find colleges that are attracting scholars and students equally excited about your interests, regardless of their location.
Reach for the Stars
You will regret not applying to your dream school. Even if your test scores and grades fall well outside published mid-50% ranges, you will always wonder “what could have been?” Just make sure you have a few more realistic options to balance out your big dreams. Also spend time getting the application and essays for your dream school just right, to make sure you’re giving yourself every advantage during the admissions process.
Narrow Things Down
The more you narrow things down on the front end, the less angst you’ll have at the end of the process. Applying to more than 10 colleges is delaying the decision-making process. By narrowing things down on the front end, you’ll have an easier spring when you receive admission decisions and ultimately decide where to enroll. Plus, refining the college application list early means you won’t have to write application essays for school that you’re not seriously considering.
Interested in chatting with a former Associate Dean of Admission and Director of Selection?
With degrees from Duke, Miami, and Rice, as well as 15 years of selective college admissions experience, please consider Emily Nevinger a resource as you compile your college application list. Emily can set up virtual appointments to discuss what is important about your college search and offer strategic, personalized advice about your application process.
Emily NevingerEmily is Associate Director of Admissions and College Advising Consultant at Allendale Columbia School. After serving as the Interim College Advisor in Fall 2018, Emily took on a role to offer students and families outside AC with guidance in the college admissions process. Her role has since expanded to the Admissions team, where she helps prospective families learn more about AC's innovative education. Emily joined AC from Emory University where she directed the selection process for more than 20,000 freshmen candidates each year. She started working at the university level in 2003 and was a senior member of the admission committees for University of Miami, Emory University, and UNC Chapel Hill. Emily holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University, a Master of Higher Education Administration and Enrollment Management from the University of Miami, and a Certificate in College Access Counseling from Rice University.
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