Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to Apply to College - Step 2: Find Your College

Welcome to step two! I will begin this post with a list of resources, since I was unable to list them in the video (ran out of time).

  • College website: Always read as much as you can on the college website. Take the time to read everything thoroughly and make notes about aspects of the school you like or don't like.
  • CollegeBoard: This site is a great resources for finding basic information about a school. They have a College Matchmaker, where you can input certain criteria and the site will show a list of colleges that match that criteria. It's not perfect - I recommend playing around with it until you get a decent-looking list. (For example, if you check "Orchestra," it eliminates a lot of colleges that do have an orchestra.) Also, if you create an account you can save your list and return to it later. Also, some of the information is out-of-date, so be sure to double-check with the school's website.
  • CollegeConfidential: This site is a gold mine for information about colleges. It can get overwhelming, though. I used CollegeConfidential primarily for their College Search, which is great when used in tandem with College Matchmaker, and their famous/infamous forums. The forums are fantastic for finding out the "secrets" of colleges. Often students at the college will answer questions. Definitely use this resource, but take it with a grain of salt. Remember that opinions are opinions and people often have hang ups that you do not.
  • College Prowler: I treat Prowler as a fun site. It has student reviews and grades various aspects of the school.
  • theUrocks Youtube Channel: This channel is pure entertainment. They have video clips about various aspects of a certain college that are fun to watch. (Though the statistics are a bit outdated.) This is a great way to see what the campus and dorms look like. 
  • I also recommend buying or browsing through a book that has a complete list of colleges. I used CollegeBoard's 2011 College Handbook. 
  • Talk to people! Alumni, current students, prospective students. Ask them how they chose their college. People are often the best resource.
I will add more resources as I find/think of others.

Now for topics discussed in the video.

What will the college offer me?
  • Academics: This is where it's handy to have an idea of what you're interested in studying. If you are interested in graphic design, do a google search for "top undergrad graphic design schools" (or programs, colleges, universities). If you don't know what you're interested in studying, then pick a school that offers a wide range of courses and majors.
  • Social life: Often people who are academically intense neglect this, but social life is just as important as academic life. Some factors to consider:
    • Location: Do you love busy cities or prefer quiet walks? Check the school's location and its proximity to nearby cities.
    • Size: There are advantages and disadvantages to large or small schools. If you want to blend in and not receive as much individual attention, it's probably best to go to a large school. Smaller schools tend to have smaller classes, which means you can't get away with not doing the reading before class.
    • Greek life: Do you want it, can you live with it? 
    • Single-sex/coed: I personally found single-sex schools very unattractive. (No boys in college? What's the point of going anyway??!!) But keep in mind that often single-sex schools will have a relationship with one or several colleges that have those of the opposite sex. Also keep in mind that many all-girl schools have a strong lesbian-culture. If you're not into that, it might be socially isolating.
  • Other factors
    • Cost: Don't apply to a college just because you cannot afford the tuition! You might get needs based aid. Also apply for scholarships to get merit-based aid as well. There are a lot of random scholarships out there.
    • Diversity: Some colleges have a higher percentage of ethnic minorities, such as Historically Black Colleges.
    • Housing: Do you want to live on/off campus? Do the majority of upperclassmen live off campus and are you OK with that?
    • Religion: many colleges have a religious affiliation. 
    • Post-college life: Be sure to research how the graduates fare when finding employment or going to graduate school.
Admission Criteria
  • Reach school: These are the most competitive schools with an acceptance rate of 30% or less. No matter how stellar of an applicant you are, it will be a reach. 
  • Likely: These are schools that fit your range of statistics (GPA, test scores) and have a higher acceptance rate, but admission is not a given.
  • Safety: These schools accept a majority (or close to it) of applicants. Remember that many safeties are no longer safe, so be sure to apply to more than one.
Types of Colleges
  • Public/private, Liberal Arts, University, Community College, Vocational-Technical and Career College, Special Interest College
  • Ivy League: The Ivy League is an athletic conference of eight private higher education institutions. The list is: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. Often these schools are associated with prestige and elitism. My opinion is that it's great to aim for these schools, but nothing is a sure bet. Remember that just because they are "name brand" schools, they may not be the right fit for you. I know a guy who was accepted into MIT (not an Ivy, but a top tier and very well-known school) but decided to go to the University of Minnesota because he found the environment at MIT too competitive.
Please comment with questions! Good luck!


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