How to Choose a College, Part Two

Guest blogger Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring standardized tests since 2005. She has taught throughout the greater Los Angeles area and is a proud member of the Grockit team. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern California and has studied abroad in London.
In part 1 of choosing a college, we discussed a few things to keep in mind when researching colleges. Next, you’ll need to think about a plan before working on all the applications in front of you.
Applying for college can be a bit like gambling in a casino. To ensure that you “win” (i.e. get into at least one good school), it’s important to divide the schools into three categories: Safety, match and reach.
A safety school is one that you wouldn’t mind attending but that you are reasonably certain that you’ll be able to get into. Research the average GPA and SAT scores of recent incoming freshman to help you figure out which category to place each university. Your scores and grades should be above the average.
A match school is one whose statistics on its incoming freshman relatively match your own. You can reasonably expect to get in to a few of your match schools, although don’t be disappointed if you are rejected from a few others.
A reach school is one that you would love to attend, but that your statistics are a bit lower than the average incoming freshman. These schools are longshots, but that’s part of the fun. Who knows? You could be accepted.
One final thing to consider is early decision or early action. If there is one school in your reach category that you dream of attending more than any other, you may want to look into whether or not they have an early admission option on their application. Typically, these applications are due a little earlier and in exchange, students are notified by January. Essentially, if you are accepted you automatically agree to attend.
Application Fees
We all know that paying for college can be expensive, but keep in mind that each application will have an accompanying fee as well. The University of California school system, for example, costs $60 for each school and many private schools charge more. You’ll need to create an application budget. Talk to your parents about what they can afford to spend and ask your college counselor for advice as well.
According to the College Board’s website, if you’ve participated in the SAT Program Fee-Waiver Service, you may also be eligible to waive application fees at the colleges to which you’re applying.
Schools, like people, have personalities. There’s a huge difference between Middlebury College and NYU. Schools have reputations for a reason; they aren’t always true, but it’s important to understand what you might be potentially getting yourself into.
Ask yourself these big questions: Does a big-name school matter to me? Do I want more focused one-on-one attention from my professors? Do I want to join a sorority or a fraternity?
Even if you don’t know all of the answers, you’ll want to do plenty of research now so that you will genuinely love your program, campus and community.