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Building the Best College List for Yourself

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Choosing which colleges or universities can be very difficult when there’s so many to choose from. Oftentimes, you have already gone on your college tours during the summer of your junior year and come into your senior year with an idea of what your college list looks like. Even if you haven’t had the chance to go visit, most chances are, you have done your research and still come into your senior year with an idea of which colleges you want to go to.

First of all, you need to make sure that the colleges you are adding to your list fit your needs. For example, if you prefer having small classes or a small school setting, you don’t want to add big universities to your list such as Stanford University (class sizes can be up to 100+!). Don’t forget to look at the type of school, location, class sizes, financial aid availability, and most importantly, majors offered. Even if you’re applying as an undeclared major, you want to make sure the school you add offers programs you are interested in!

Once you have narrowed down your list of schools that fit most of your priorities, it’s time to start building your college list. There are three different categories you can organize these schools into: reach, match, and safety.

Reach schools are schools that you have a chance to get in to, but your SAT/ACT scores, grades, or class rank are on the lower end of their statistics. Let’s keep using our Stanford example. The average admitted applicant graduated top 10 % in their high school, had an SAT score of 700-799 on every section, and had at least a 4.0 GPA. However, 1% of their admitted class graduated below top 21% of their high school, scored below 600 for each section in the SAT, and had a GPA below 3.7 in high school. ** So if you are a student in the top 21% of your class, have a GPA of 3.8, and scored at least 700 on each section of the SATs, then Stanford is your reach school. You are at the lower end of their admission spectrum, but there is still that chance of you getting in, even if it’s very slim. You want to keep the number of reach schools in your list small, up to a maximum of 4.

Match schools are schools that you are likely to get into because your standardized test scores, grades, and class rankings fall right in the middle of their admission standards. The name is self-explanatory. These are the schools that you are likely to be matched with. You want the bulk of your college list to be filled with these match schools.

Lastly, there are the safety schools. These are schools that you have the greatest chances of getting into because your SAT/ACT scores, grades, and class rankings fall under the top of their admission standards. You need to note, however, that even if you have the greatest chance of getting into these types of schools, the chances are not 100%. You want to apply to at least two of these schools so that you can be almost guaranteed admission to two schools.

There you have it! Good luck with the admission process, and be sure to add colleges from each type to your college list!

This article was written for you by Frances, one of the tutors with Test Prep Academy.

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