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College List a Mess? Make These 3 Key Changes!

The college admissions season is a long one, so it will take the best preparation and planning to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible. One of the key ways to ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed with various deadlines and application materials is to create a finalized and sensible college list. Creating the college list, in which you list and categorize the different universities and colleges to which you will apply, is a task that should not be taken lightly. After all, you are narrowing down which schools you can see yourself attending for the next four years. This is your future we’re talking about!

Today I will give you some tips how to shape your college list into something that will not only get you ready for the application season but also will inspire you to act more diligently on your applications. These three key changes are a must for anyone who is serious about where they go to school next fall.

1. Determine your academic and careers goals and eliminate colleges that won’t help them.

Selecting colleges is a time of truthful considerations and deep thought. You need to know, even if it may end up changing, your desired major, because that will be a huge factor when selecting schools. Not all universities have the same professors or resources for any given major; in fact, some may not even have your prospective major. The difference can be staggering when your seemingly favorite college has one general engineering major versus another that has, say, electrical, environmental, mechanical, petroleum, and biomedical.

Your major, however, is not the only way to select a university. There are several other factors, such as funding, research programs, alumni networks, and location, that should shape your selections. These extra-curricular concerns should not be taken lightly, for they will also influence your experiences and knowledge, boosting your competitive edge in the job market.

2. Research all prospective schools A LOT; if you think you’ve done enough, do a little more.

You can never know enough about a university. Some useful resources and ways to determine whether or not you should include a university on your college list include the following: the university’s website, admissions counselors at the university, your high school counselors, alumni of the university, and friends who currently attend.

The university’s website should be one of your main resources. It will have thousands of pages and ways to collect information. You can find the university’s mission statement, which will be helpful in determining if the school’s education philosophy matches your own. You can also look at the various departments and faculty members. Since you can see firsthand the type of research and interests the professors have, you can know clearly if they will be aligned with your goals and can help develop research and skills that are often limited to a professor’s specific expertise.

Don’t let, however, online research be your only way of getting to know a college. Be more proactive and ask alumni, counselors, and friends who are attending. What the glossy brochures and crisp webpages won’t tell you can be vital details about class culture, funding opportunities, and the general climate of the school. Sometimes these personal approaches are even better than what you can do through the university’s website.

3. Be honest about your chances of acceptance.

It is important that every college list has different types of schools: reach, on-target, and safety. Let me state now that any school on your college list should be one that you are excited to attend and that you can see yourself being at for the next four years of your life.

For reach schools, these will be universities that are highly selective and require certain standardized test scores, GPAs, and class ranks to have a decent chance of being accepted. An energetic and passionate essay or two in your application can definitely give you a boost, but without a strong academic profile, you may -- or, more likely, will -- get passed for another student with a similar background but better academic numbers.

On-target schools are ones that have a moderate-to-moderately-high selective process but for the most part the students who are accepted match your academic profile. You may be lacking in a key area, like a lower standardized test score or class rank, but overall you match with the applicant pool.

Safety schools are ones where you should get accepted. It is really important that you select schools for this category that would truly fit your goals and not make you feel like you wasted your college years. Sometimes a school is a safety one for the simple fact that you are automatically admitted--which may be the case if you are in the certain percentile of your high school's graduating class.

Starting now you need to start trimming the fat from your college list and get to the heart of what you truly want from a university. You don’t necessarily have to settle for second best, but you have to make your expectations match your aspirations. Personalizing this list will be so important for your future success with applications, college, and even your career.

At B2A we help students with the college admission applications and can assist students and parents at any point of the process. If you find yourself having trouble determining which college to attend, then check out our services and set up an appointment with one of our directors. We love helping students with this vital step to getting into their dream schools.

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