Written by Chris Hernandez
Whether you plan on applying to two schools or twenty, you need to give priority to balance. With a balanced college list, you will distribute your eggs evenly in several baskets, which is likely to result in mostly acceptances, giving you several great options to come to a decision you are satisfied with.
We recommend using the 4-4-4 rule to create your college list; this list should include four reach schools, four target schools, and four safety schools. However, this number is just a general rule of thumb, do not feel constrained by this number.
A reach school is one that you’d like to attend, but may not get accepted to due to high competitiveness or because your profile is below what is typically accepted. Do not get discouraged by this! Even if this is the case, you may still have a chance of getting accepted, but you’ll never know unless you try. Ivy league colleges are always reaches, even if you fit the profile of students accepted. At Amikka we specialize in helping our students build their profiles to their best ability to help maximize their chances of getting into their dream schools.
Match colleges include schools that are a perfect fit but are still relatively competitive. This includes high-ranking state universities, private colleges, or schools with top programs.
These should be realistic schools for which you meet the requirements and match the profiles of those who have already been accepted.
Safety schools are the schools that will surely accept you, given that you are well above the traditional student accepted. These may not be your top choice, but you need to make sure you are happy attending any of these schools. In the worst-case scenario, you will have to pick between only this category of schools.
One of the benefits of applying to a school for which you are an extraordinary applicant is that you may receive more scholarship money based on merit.
If you stick to this plan, you will most likely end up with a good amount of college acceptance letters, thereby giving you options in your final choice.
Related article: What is an SAT Superscore & Which Colleges Superscore?
We cannot stress this enough: your years in college are arguably the most formative ones in your life. It is a journey where you will learn a lot about yourself and establish your character. It may be the first time you live apart from your family and childhood friends, but it will provide you with new, lifelong friends while developing your independence and preparing you for life outside of the nest.
If you cannot see yourself living there, going to class, meeting like-minded people, and cultivating long-term relationships, don’t go there.
Though part of choosing which college to attend is about what is advantageous for your future, that is only half of it. The other half is about your happiness, so make sure to consider that when you are making your college list.
You can learn what you like and dislike about each school on your list by spending some time picturing your freshman and senior year on campus.
These factors are not listed in order of importance, as that varies from student to student.
It should not come as a surprise that academics is one of the most important factors you have to consider when choosing where to go to college. Your career opportunities and experiences are reliant on the education you receive, so you need to make sure it is a good one.
However, this doesn’t mean everyone should go to schools like Harvard or Yale. You shouldn’t just base your decision on how a school ranks. Every student learns at their own pace, and as such, there are several factors that make a college a good fit.
Before you research colleges, have a clear idea of what works for you. Do you need or prefer more individual attention? If so, you may prefer a college with smaller class sizes and a higher ratio of students to faculty. Are you looking to be part of the honors program? You may need to research the qualification requirements and opportunities in each of the schools you are considering. Are you interested in any “niche” courses that aren't offered everywhere? Other factors to consider are research opportunities, scholarships, dual degree programs, and anything else you find important when it comes to your goals and learning style.
For some students, campus culture is just as important as academics. College is about what you can get from it and that goes beyond your degree. You will want to feel at home on campus, as this is where you will spend a majority of your time here.
You’ll want to have opportunities to make friends, get involved, and make memories that will last a lifetime; these are things you can obtain on a lively campus.
While we don’t encourage students to let legacy and family expectations to be the sole factor in deciding the college they chose to attend, we do recognize that it is an important factor to consider nonetheless.
Going to a college with a strong alumni network will help you build meaningful connections. This is important, as networking will help you with future opportunities in the workforce.
Where a college is can have a big impact on the quality of life there. Factors like city size, weather, public transportation, amenities, and distance from home define your college experience.
You may be set on attending a school without realizing how much the weather will impact your life there. Let’s say you are from a big city in the south, like Miami, and have your heart set on Syracuse for their Communications program. Are you sure you will be able to switch from constant sun and warmth to cold and gloomy days? You also need to consider what lies beyond the college campus. If you are used to a bigger city and move to a city where the main attraction is the college campus, adjusting to life there may be difficult and lead to feeling trapped.
When you are applying to college, your goal should be to find a college that checks all of your boxes. There are 5,300 colleges and universities in the U.S alone, you have plenty of options so you should not settle.
You may already have a goal in mind and school that you’ve spent years daydreaming about, or you may be completely lost. No matter where you are, you need to realize that there is a school out there for you.
The journey you will take to get you to your dreams will not be an easy one, but it is a fulfilling one. It takes years of preparing, planning, and setting goals or intentions. However, this work does not go unwarranted; nothing compares to receiving an acceptance letter from your dream school.
At Amikka Learning, our goal has always been to help students reach their maximum potential. Through our tutoring, test prep programs, and college consulting services, we can help you make your dreams a reality. Contact us to get started.