Ironically, the one piece of the college process that we find students spend too little time developing is the college list itself. Time and time again, we see lists that are strikingly similar across the board despite the vast differences among our students. Villanova, George Washington, American, University of Maryland, Boston University, Northeastern, University of Virginia, Bucknell, Rutgers, and Lehigh tend to make their way onto just about every list every year. These institutions are great, and we don’t necessarily discourage any students from applying to these, but we also push our students to look further outside the box. What about schools like Guilford, Endicott, Ursinus, Champlain, Eckerd, New College, Furman, or Clark? It’s okay if students have never heard of these schools; what’s important is that they be willing to look into them, despite their lower name recognition.
To begin, we compile all applicable data for a complete student profile: transcripts, test scores, activities and leadership positions, and potential majors. Then, we run students through a litany of questions, parsing out their “must-haves” and “must-avoids.” From there, we develop a list of 15-20 potential fits, running the gamut from high likelihood of acceptance to reaches, and narrow down after guiding students through research and tours of the institutions. The goal is to leave students with a list of 8-12 schools that fit their academic, social, and financial needs. At this time, we also discuss applying Early Action, Early Decision, or Regular Decision, and begin to identify which application plan students should follow for each institution.