4 STEPS TO BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE LIST

Your college list is critical, because having the right one for YOU will determine whether you’ll have suitable options come spring of senior year. The wrong college list can greatly affect your admissions outcome, no matter how well you craft your applications. Here are key points to crafting a college list that is realistic, well-balanced, and filled with schools where you’d be happy to attend.

1) Compile your personal college selection criteria: distance from home, setting (urban, suburban, small town, rural), size, Greek life (yay or nay), coed vs. single sex, religious affiliation, diversity, academic offerings, academic rigor, campus’ vibe, student to faculty ratio, graduation rate, public vs. private, campus or none, activities in your interest areas, cost, and testing policies.

2) Explore colleges that fit most of your criteria. Visit these schools before finalizing your list –or visit comparable types of colleges to determine which criteria matter most to you. If you can’t visit, try virtual campus tours, exploring each college’s website, including departmental pages. Peruse college guidebooks, and talk with current students and alumni via social media platforms. For each college, collect and organize information for each of your selection criteria, and note pros/cons, making it clearer which are best fits.

3) Assess your odds of admission to each school. Investigate the academic requirements for admission and where your profile fits in each school’s acceptance pool. Evaluating your odds must also including examining the acceptance rate at each college. Then categorize each college as a Reach, Match, or Safety school in relation to you. Reach schools are ones that are not as likely for you, though not out of the question, either. Your overall academic stats are below those of the majority of accepted students at these schools and it would take something compelling on your application to override those odds. Reaches are possibilities to shoot for, but cannot be counted on. And for colleges that accept less than 20% of applicants, “reach” applies to all applicants, so recognize that even highly qualified students may be denied.

Match/Target schools are those that are in your “ballpark,” ones where you have a reasonable chance acceptance based on your stats falling solidly in range. Matches are where most students land.

Safety/Likely schools are those for which your profile is above the majority of enrolled students and don’t have a very low acceptance rate. Your safety schools are still very good schools and are “safe” only in terms of your chances. Everyone needs safety schools, and they ought to be ones you’d be happy to attend. Put two sure bet schools on the list to ensure a choice, just in case your reach or match schools don’t come through.

4) Compile a balanced final college list: about 40% Reaches, 40% Matches, and 20% Safeties. This often means 4-6 Reaches, 4-6 Matches/Targets, and 2 Safeties/Likelies, for a final total of 10 to 14 schools. Applying to more than 14 could be too many, given the efforts demanded for effective applications. Too few applications and you could be shut out!

Once you have finalized your carefully curated college list, you’ll have a solid foundation for embarking on the application process, allowing you to attend a school that is right for you.

This guest post was written by Susan Taub, ED.M., an independent college counselor based near New York City. For nearly 20 years, Susan has counseled students in the US and internationally, drawing on her experience of 40 years in a wide range of education roles. Susan received a BA from Tufts University and an Ed.M. from Harvard. Susan advises students starting as early as ninth grade, and has particular expertise in very selective college admissions and specialized performing arts degree programs. Learn more at college-wise.com.

6 Classic College Application Essay Errors

Admissionscheckup.com Stephanie Klein Wassink

December is college application season and although we all know you meant to get your essays done last summer, if you are like most seniors, you still have at least a few left to go.

I recently reached out to Stephanie Klein Wassink, Brown University grad and founder of AdmissionsCheckup.com, for her college essay tips. AdmissionsCheckup is a unique application review service that offers students a fresh eye for their applications and essays after the usual editing and review is done.

Here are a handful of Stephanie’s key cautions to keep in mind when writing and reviewing your essays:

1) Overusing the word I: There is no “I” in team….so overusing it simply comes across as arrogant. Vary your sentences, choose another topic or make sure you are attributing your success more broadly, beyond “I.”

2) Being Boring: Admissions officers can and do skim essays. If you had 2,000 applications to read, who would you prefer to admit? Someone who almost put you to sleep, someone who made you realize that you read the same paragraph seven times or someone who captivated and held your interest while showing you his experiences? Boring is an uphill battle and the kiss of death combined.

3) A Plethora of SAT Words: Consider the fact that your reader has not taken the SAT in the last 5 (or more) years. Keep the vocabulary accessible. Nothing bothers an admissions officer more than reading an essay that doesn’t sound like a 17-year-old wrote it.

4) Bragging: I once read an essay about a student who had seen five of the seven wonders of the world. Impressive right? No, not impressive at all. It said more about his parents’ bank account than his actual accomplishments. Bragging just doesn’t come off well.

5) Another School’s Name: This one is obvious, but happens more often than you think. Here is a trick I like to tell my students: before you submit your application, read your essay from the last word on the page forward to the first. It will make catching the wrong name much easier. It is also a good idea to wait a day or two before submitting, and read it again.

6) Regurgitating your Resume: The application provides a place for you to list and describe your activities. If you list them in your essays, you are wasting a valuable opportunity to show the admissions officer who you are. The whole point of the essay is to tell the admissions officer something they would not get by just reading your resume.

For more application tips from Stephanie and AdmissionsCheckup.com’s team of former admissions officers, visit her blog at admissionscheckup.com.

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