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September 17th, 2018

Developing a College List

 

It’s easy to develop a college list. But to develop YOUR college list may require more THINKING and DOING.

The THINKING involves an introspective examination of you and your lived experiences. You need to reflect on several dimensions of self, related to academic, personal, social, and career aspirations; And for some, familial aspiration and expectations of you need to be resolved. Working through most, if not all, of these areas requires YOU to process the following set of sample questions:

Academic: What set of institutions match well with my demonstrated abilities as reflected in my high school achievement and in test scores?

Personal: What set of institutions align well with my personal interest and desire for greater interaction with students and faculty? Will I have this intimacy at medium to large schools? Do I want a single sex school or co-ed school? How close/far do I want to be from home?

Social: What types of institutions will enable me to meet other people with similar interests? For example, if I play the erhu, a classical Chinese string instrument, will I find opportunities to continue my musical interest at a small school or at a medium to large institution?

Career: What school will provide me with the foundational knowledge and experiential learning to pursue my career aspirations? For example, if you want an undergraduate business education, does applying to Harvard make any sense, considering that the only Ivy League schools with accredited undergraduate business programs are at Cornell or UPenn?

After you’ve done some THINKING, then its time to begin the DOING, which relates to the active engagement of learning and exploration.

  • Do utilize the resources of US News and World Report Ranking, The World Ranking, Barron’s, Princeton Review, Forbes, Times, etc., BUT seek to understand how they calculate/rank schools. Don’t just accept them at face value. Schools’ ranks should not be the primary factor.
  • Do consider reach schools, target schools and safety schools when creating a list of 10 schools. Consider a ratio of 3:4:3 to ensure a balanced school list, as a top-heavy school list can yield disastrous outcomes. Be realistic.
  • Do talk to your counselors, teachers, parents and other relatives that have gone to college. Ask them about their collegiate experiences, from application to graduation. Keep in mind their information may be outdated but their lived experience provides valuable insight and perspectives.
  • Do visit college websites and explore them in greater detail. Go beyond, the ‘Admissions’ page; look at “student life” for clubs and organizations. Do they have club/organizations of interest? Visit academic departmental webpage for your major to gain insight on faculty expertise. Look into their published and ongoing research for possible alignment with yours. This comes in handy for integration into your supplemental essay of “why us?”
  • Do look at colleges and universities in your area. Which one impresses you the most and why? How do other schools you’re considering stack up to what you’ve just described in previous questions?
  • Do visit, especially ones you’re considering for Early Decision or Restrictive Early Action. Take a campus tour and admissions information session. If you can, try to visit during the academic year when semester is in full swing. Stay overnight in the dorm, eat in the dining halls, attend classes and speak to faculty for a truly immersive experience.

Having a great school list requires thoughtful reflection on what you value in your education. It requires you to go above and beyond rankings and to dig deeper into an institutions’ soul, asking does it align with yours?

 

Solomon Admissions Consulting is an international college admissions consulting company based in New York, which helps applicants apply to and be accepted by colleges, MBA and MD programs, and private schools.

 

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