This is the second post in my College App Series, so if you haven’t seen the first post on polishing up your resume, check it out here! Today’s post centers around determining which schools are a great match for you and how many schools you should apply to. Hopefully you’ll find this helpful!
Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am simply someone who went through this process, recently graduated from college, and want to help others do the same the best way I can.
When determining the number of schools to which you should apply, the biggest factor is your finances. College applications (unfortunately) aren’t free, so it’s important to set up a budget. Keep in mind that not only do you have to worry about the application fee, but you also have to send your standardized test scores to each school. College app fees typically range between 25 to 80 dollars per school while each test score that you send averages about 12 dollars. Talk with your family about how much money you’re willing and able to spend on this process. Also, get in touch with your school’s counselors because they may know about programs that can help alleviate some of these costs.
A helpful tip: If you qualify for free and reduced lunch and you used a fee waiver on your SAT, you should also qualify for a few application fee waivers. If you go on the Collegeboard website, there should be instructions for how to acquire those. When I went through this process in 2012, I was able to get four waivers and used them to waive the fees for the four most expensive schools I applied to.
Once you’ve determined how much money you can spend, it’ll be easy to see how many schools you can apply to. The average number of schools is seven, but you can apply to more or less depending on your own situation. The standard formula for school applications is:
Two safety schools: Schools where your standardized test scores and your GPA are on the higher side of / well above the average range for admitted students
Three match schools: test scores and GPA are within the range for admitted students
Two reach schools: test scores and GPA are on the lower side / below the range for admitted students
Schools also look at things like essays and extracurricular activities, however grades and scores are the basic things that determine whether a school is in your reach. Many schools won’t even consider your application if your scores aren’t up to par with their current students.
There are a number of different criteria to look through when deciding on specific schools. These include but are not limited to:
- Instate vs Out of state schools
- Tuition/room and board fees
- Size of school
The best way to find out more about a school is to visit the campus, but if that isn’t a possibility for you there are other ways as well. Check out social media, like Facebook and Twitter, to see what others have said about the school as well as get in touch with current students. Also, many schools have ambassador programs (or something similar) that are dedicated to helping prospective students. Try a Google search and see if you can get in touch with someone from one of those programs who may be able to answer some of your questions.
For more info on what to look for in a school, you can check out one of my old blog posts which outlines some of the most important things I wish I had considered when looking for schools.
The next post will be about navigating the Common App. While waiting for the next post in the series, check out some of my other college-related posts!
Until next time,
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