Importance of Building a Balanced College List
With most of the college decisions being out once again it is clear to see why building a
balanced college list is very important especially as acceptances rates at many
college continue to drop.
While there are plenty of success stories we have also seen a lot of disappointed students
who felt they deserved better. More importantly, there are a number of students
who ended up with zero acceptances or acceptances at colleges they don't really
want to or cannot afford to attend. All of this is easily avoidable if you
build a balanced college list which also needs to take into account your
family's financial situation.
Our team is working on creating RP Insights premium packages, part of which will be
dedicated to creating unique college lists based on your profile, to help you
navigate college admissions process by matching hard data with human insights.
In the meantime, we decided to summarize some thoughts for those who will be
applying in the following years:
1. Do your own research. Get as much advice as possible from your peers, teachers,
counselors etc but do your own homework. Research colleges, majors and options
2. Just because you are a great student it doesn't mean you will be accepted into
top universities. There are plenty of valedictorians who get rejected by
colleges every year.
3. Just because people around you think you deserve to attend a top university it
doesn't mean you will end up there. Most of the people around you simply don't
have all the data and they aren't admission officers. The admissions game is even more global now and every year tens of thousands very qualified international students are applying to the same colleges.
4. The world is becoming more competitive and the name does matter especially for certain majors or career fields. If you feel like you are a qualified applicant you should apply to a number of top schools but don't just focus on the name, find programs that are of interest to you and see how good they are irrespective of university's ranking.
5. When you build your college list think what matters to you i.e. class size, location, social scene, sports etc. Don't just look at national rankings. There are lots of small liberal arts college providing excellent education and great alumni networks that can put you in a much better position when you graduate. You should be happy to attend every college on your list if you are accepted whether it is a top 10 university, liberal arts college or local state school. The reality is you just don't know where you will end up.
6. With the cost of education rising every year think about your family's financial position. You college list should reflect that. Again, do your research when it comes to finding universities with good financial aid policies. Remember, a safety is only a safety if you can afford to attend it. This is especially true for international students applying to US universities.
7. No! If you apply to 10 colleges with around 10% acceptance rate you aren't expected to get into at least one of them. That's not how the numbers work. If you aren't convinced take AP Stats class. Even if you are an exceptional student you should still build a college list with a wide range of options. It is also important to remember that even if your GPA and SAT/ACT aren't great it doesn't mean top college will not be interested in you - they review applications in context and look at your circumstances and the opportunities you were provided - we always think it is worth taking a shot at colleges you are very interested in even if you may feel like it's impossible to get into. We don't like to categorizing universities into reaches, matches and safeties as it is difficult to say which one is which and depends a lot on a student's profile but we do know that a good range of school needed to avoid disappointment in the end.
Finally, a great piece of advice from Stanford's Dean of Admissions!