The Most Important Factors When Narrowing Down Your College List
Making a college list is an exciting part of the college planning process. However, looking at a large number of schools and deciding which ones are the best fit can also be stressful and overwhelming for some students. After all, this is an important decision that will have a large impact on their lives. To help make things simpler, here are the three major factors to keep in mind when deciding which colleges to apply to: Selectivity, Major/Career, and School Characteristics.
When Sophomores and Juniors (or even freshmen) start looking at colleges, it is only natural for them and their parents to start thinking of what the most selective schools they can realistically get into are. There is a reason these are the schools that they are most excited to visit: graduating from a selective school can give a student an advantage when interviewing for jobs.
Because of this, students can feel pressure to get accepted into a certain school. It is important for parents to communicate that this process is the result of all of the work they have done to get to this point, and ultimately this should be a fun and exciting time.
Starting Your College List
Students should start the first draft of their college list in Sophomore year after taking the PSAT. This is the first time they have a quantitative measure of their skills in conjunction with their grades, so it is a good starting point for thinking about college. Using tools such as USNews and World Report, create a list of 15 to 20 schools. Sort them by selectivity to identify reach, target, and safety schools, keeping in mind factors such as your GPA, the rigor of coursework, and standardized test scores. Over the next year, narrow down this list by doing college visits and exploring which major you want to pursue.
This brings us to the second key factor in making your college list. The major a student pursues is a critical driver of admissions decisions. A school’s admissions officer will often look at a student’s high school performance compared to other students in the context of their selected major.
How a school prepares you for your chosen career path is important. While making your college list, think about which major to choose by deciding what you like, what you’re good at, what skills you have, and which schools have programs that will help you pursue them. High school does not always prepare students for making this choice, so it is important to use other resources available to you, such as family, friends, or counselors.
The Importance of Internships
Certain colleges will allow students to take internships at companies connected to the school as part of their coursework. This is very important as it will help you build your resume and can sometimes lead to jobs after college. When making your college list, consider geography as it relates to the availability of internships relevant to your major. For example, if you are interested in business, you should consider schools in large cities such as New York or Boston. If you are interested in politics, you should think about going to school in Washington D.C.
3. School Characteristics
Once you have considered selectivity and which major you want to pursue, it is time to consider the other characteristics of the school. For example, is the school in a rural or urban setting? What is the size of the school? What extracurricular activities are available? What is campus life like? This is ultimately the least important factor of the three, but it is still worth consideration. College is a time when students prepare for life, and the value of understanding what life has to offer through the lens of school should not be ignored.
Class Size Vs. School Size
One characteristic of a school to pay attention to is class size, as it is important that students have enough individual attention. Remember that school size & class size are not always proportional. Many large universities have small class size & visa versa.
Narrowing down your list of colleges can be daunting, but by focusing on these three factors it should be an easier process.