Colleges vary in the manner that they weigh these criteria. So don't try to second guess the admissions office. You can't be accepted if you don't apply.
No later than the spring of the junior year, students should begin gathering information about as many colleges as they can so that they may have sufficient information about any school's advantages and disadvantages, and determine which colleges are best suited to their goals, needs and abilities. Remember that while the schools have their ways of judging you, you are in the process of judging them examine some of the criteria you might consider in picking a college:
- Location and Environment How far from home? Large city, medium city, suburban, small town, rural, etc.
- Type of College- Public, private, religiously affiliated. technical college, career school, etc.
- Type of Education- Liberal Arts, Humanities, Professional Training, technical education, career education, etc
- Types of accommodations - Coed dorms, single sex dorms, off-campus housing, permits students to live off campus after sophomore or freshman year, etc.
- Transportation- What is the cost of getting home? Does the school allow cars for freshmen?Is there sufficient parking for commuter students?
- Campus demographic-Student body size, Is school Coed, or single sex? Ratio of men to women, level of diversity on campus
- Areas of study- What Majors?, What departments? What courses?
- Admissions Factors - What criteria are admissions officers considering when looking at applications?
- Selectivity- What is the percentage of applicants accepted vs. the number who apply?
- Academic environment - Highly competitive, very competitive, somewhat competitive, non-competitive
- Student to faculty ratio - One advantage to smaller colleges is that tuition tends to be less than that of a larger university. Another advantage to smaller schools is the student-to-faculty ratio, which typically has less disparity than a larger university. While this does not mean a smaller school won't have large classes, it often does mean that teachers are able to provide more one-on-one time with their students.
- Activities and/or sports - Drama, music, choir, Arts, intramurals, interscholastic sports, what level, what conference, etc.
- Campus social life - No fraternities or sororities, majority of students in greek life, balance between greeks and independents, clubs, interest groups
- Costs - Don't give up on any school until you know for sure what kind of a financial aid package you can develop. But have a general idea of what is real and possible
- Financial aid available - Determine the level of financial aid a school can provide
Students should be realistic about these decisions and should not assume that the school which is most attractive to them will automatically admit them. Guidance counselors, teachers, other students and family can provide good feed back about a student's chances of being admitted to the college of his/her choice. The wise student listens carefully.
Students who commit themselves early to one or two schools are sometimes disappointed. The admissions process, as well managed as it is at most colleges, is sometimes unpredictable. Students can be disappointed if they either over-estimate their ability to compete for admission to selected colleges.
On the other hand, students should not automatically assume that their chances of admission at a particular college, or their families' to pay the tuition costs, are so limited that they should not bother applying.
In general, we advise students to apply to
- Two or three SAFE SCHOOLS - ones to which the student can reasonably expect to be admitted (based on the advice and experience of others) and which are financially affordable
- One or two COMPETITIVE SCHOOLS - ones to which the student can have reasonable expectations of being admitted (The academic profile of most students is the same as his/hers), and which may be affordable with some financial aid, budget stretching, and/or creative financing.
- One or two DREAM SCHOOLS - ones which will present a significant, but reusable, challenge to the student, which have admitted students academically similar to him/her (though his/her own record my not be quite up to the academic profile at those schools), and may or may not be affordable, pending review of the students' families to pay and the determination of financial need to be supplied by loans, grants, and work study.
Although only a rough gauge, the following graphic can give you a general idea of your academic fit in a range of colleges. This presentation is not hard and fast as admissions criteria vary from school to school.