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Last Minute College List Building

We always recommend that rising seniors leverage the summer break to work on college applications and essays. But what if students don’t know where they even want to apply? For students who need to build a college list quickly, here are some tips to help them tailor a list that sets them up for satisfactory outcomes.

Identify essentials.

Every student has their own set of criteria for what they want for their college years. Broad categories to think through can include:

  • Physical (size, distance from home, climate, setting)
  • Academic (strong programs in one’s potential major, an attractive honors program, peers who match one’s level of academic engagement)
  • Experiential (opportunities for research, internships, co-op, study abroad, having a job while at school)
  • Social (party scene, off-campus vs. on campus fun, school spirit, clubs and involvement opportunities)
  • Financial (determine family parameters, then complete a school’s Net Price Calculator; determine if merit scholarships are common and for what types of students, check how likely a school is to meet full demonstrated financial need)

Determine admissibility and create a balanced list.

Among schools that check all of the student’s boxes, determine admission challenges and choose several colleges from each category.

  • Likely: School admits a strong majority of applicants; student’s grades, test scores etc are higher than that of the average admitted student.
  • Target: School admits about 40 to 60% of applicants, student’s metrics are equal to or above the average. Or, the school admits a strong majority of applicants, and the student’s metrics meet the average.
  • Reach: Reach schools are different for everyone. Reach scenarios include:
    • A college has a high admission rate, but the student’s metrics are at or below the bottom 25% of the average.
    • An overwhelming majority of admitted students typically hail from a college’s home state but the student does not.
    • An admissions rate below 20%, even if a student’s grades and scores exceed the published average.

Leverage virtual visits and info sessions.

Thanks to Covid restrictions, most colleges have created good virtual tours. They are a wonderful resource for students who cannot get to campus, offering a sense of the campus layout, important buildings, green spaces, dorms and dining areas. Typically, a virtual student narrator provides much of the information you’d get on an in-person tour. Some schools also have live virtual tours students can sign up for so they can ask specific questions. 

Information sessions/webinars are another great way to learn about a college’s programs. UW-Madison, for example, offers webinars about its School of Business, College of Engineering and other specialized programs.

Research Resources.

In addition to each college’s website, here are just a few resources that can help: The College Board’s BigFuture website, the Fiske Guide (hopefully, this is found in your school’s guidance office), Niche.com, Campusreel.org. 

Of course, the college counselors at Galin Education are pros at helping students build their college lists and have helpful, accurate data at their fingertips that can be essential to the process. We have hourly plans and Application Camps available to help seniors who are just getting started. Contact us to see how we can help!

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