The college admissions process is a long one, but the first step is among the most important: choosing the right schools to add to your college list. Determining which factors matter to you most, and matching them to your scholastic profile, is what finding the best college fit for you is all about. Watch this webinar as we walk you through every step of the way to finding your dream school! The transcript for this webinar is below as well.
Good evening folks. Once again, welcome to Finding the Best Fit College. My name is Jesse Pizarro. I am teacher/trainer here at C2 Education. Worked with a lot, a lot of students over the years. College applications, on essays, keep up a lot with the whole college process. It’s a big, big part of my job, so I’m really looking forward this evening to talking with you all about how we can find those best fit colleges. I think for a lot of students, they have a sense for some of the big name colleges or universities that they might be interested in. And what tonight is about is try to get beyond that a little bit and think about one, whether that really is the right fit for you or your student.
And two, are there some other fits out there? Are there some ones that might be a little less common, that might be a little less well known, but that nonetheless, might be a really good fit for you? And if so, how can we identify those, what should we be looking for? What factors should we be considering in terms of trying to figure that out? So, that is our plan for this evening. Before we jump into it though, I did want to make a couple of announcements and remind folks of a few things. So, everyone should see in their little GoToWebinar control panel over there. You should see a little space for questions. At any point tonight during the webinar, feel free to submit a question. I don’t usually monitor them during the webinar itself, but at the end, I will scroll through and get to as many as I can during our little Q and A portion near the end there.
In addition to submitting a question, at any point during the webinar tonight, feel free to submit your name, your zip code, and a phone number where you may be reached if you would like me to have the C2 that’s nearest you, get in touch with you. We’d be absolutely excited to reach out to you and have a discussion about how we can maybe help, how you might fit at C2, what back assistance might look like. And if you give us that information, your name, your zip code, and your phone number, I will ensure that whatever center is closest to you, reaches out as soon as possible.
Beyond that, you should see a little handouts area in your go to webinar control panel. In there you’ll find a coupon that we value at over 120 dollars. You are welcome to download it at any point during the webinar this evening. This coupon will entitle you to come into C2 to come into pretty much C2 and take an exam and see the results of that exam of course, but I don’t think that’s where the value lies. You can take exams lots of places and of course it’s good to take them and to know your results, but even more important than that is being able to interpret and understand those results, and being able to plan as a result of them. And that’s what the coupon really entitles.
It entitles you to come in and sit down with one of our center directors, and go over those exam results, and what their implications might be. What does this mean about how much I need to study if I want to raise my score by this many points, or if I’m interested in attending this kind of school, or what have you. So, not only will they take you through the results in incredible detail, but they’ll talk to you about the implications of those results and potentially planning based on that. So, definitely strongly encourage you at any point tonight to go ahead into that handouts area and download that handout.
One last thing that I would very much appreciate is, if folks could just submit a question confirming that they can see the slides and that they can hear me. We had a couple of technical glitches on recent webinars, and so if someone can just, or a couple folks, can just mention that you can see and hear, that would be very much appreciated, and we will jump right into it. Excellent, okay. I see a number of you have done that. So thank you so much. I will remind everyone again at the end about the handout, about submitting your name, phone number, and zip code, so we can get in touch with you. And of course answer any questions that you have throughout the webinar. I will answer as many as I can when we get to the Q & A session at the end.
So, like I said, our agenda tonight, we’re going to talk a little bit about the different kinds of schools that are out there. I know for many students, you just think of college, and that’s certainly what I thought of when I was 17 years old. It didn’t occur to me necessarily. I certainly didn’t know the differences between universities, and liberal arts schools, and that sort of thing. We’ll talk about all the different factors that you should be thinking about when it comes to selecting and identifying good fit colleges, both the major ones, the ones that tend to dominate student decision making; but then some additional ones that students may not have considered, but that nonetheless can be important, especially pending on the student and their individual situation.
We’ll talk about researching, and what to look for, and where to look for it, or where you can find good information about schools. And that will ultimately lead to a recommendation in terms of how you make a list of schools to which to apply. Ultimately by the end of this process, you want to have a list of schools. You want to have a bunch of schools and add them to your common app, or go to their websites, or what have you, so that you can … Oh, sorry about that folks. So that you can apply, so you can follow the whole application process. We have a whole series of webinars coming up over the summer and into the fall about that.
So, let’s jump right into it, and we’ll start with a couple of different types of schools. The first type is probably the type that most students think of when they think of, “I’m going to go to college. I’m going to apply to a fancy university or something.” These are research universities. They, generally speaking, have both undergraduate, and graduate, and professional schools. So a school that offers undergraduate degrees, but then offers master’s degrees, and PhD’s, and law degrees, and medical degrees, and that sort of thing. Those are your research universities. And again, if you just name a school that you’ve heard of, not guaranteed, but in all likelihood, it’s going to be one of these.
Obviously at research universities, they are very oriented towards research. That tends to be what they value, for example, in their professors in terms of rating their professors, in terms of getting them raises, in terms of them achieving professional success. That opportunity for research, that encouragement to research, that incentive to research, of course trickles down to both the graduate students and the undergraduate students. So, research universities tend to have more opportunities for research available if that’s something that you prioritize particularly highly as a student, or you’re strongly considering, this is certainly a thing to think about as you’re initially widdling down your list of schools.
Then you’ve got liberal arts schools, and these tend to be smaller. Sometimes the student communities are a little bit tighter knit, often times because the individual classes are smaller, and because they’re only undergraduates. There are no graduate students wondering around and taking up professor attention, let alone students pursuing professional degrees or what have you. And as a result, there’s a greater emphasis on teaching, or there tends to be, at liberal arts schools. Many students like attending liberal arts schools for that very reason, because even as freshman, they know that they are going to be taking courses with real, full-fledged professors teaching their courses and grading their work, as opposed to graduate students and teaching assistants, and what have you.
Sometimes you’ll hear the word college thrown out. “I graduated from the college of Arts and Sciences at such and such a university.” And that’s one way that universities often organize the different disciplines, or the different fields that they cover. So to take the example of NYU, Tisch is a very, very famous school of drama at NYU. So the larger NYU, the one college, is Tisch College. My brother actually attended Tisch. And then within Tisch, you can major in specific things, or you can focus on specific things. Obviously one focus is acting, but you could also focus on directing, or writing, or even … I’m not positive, but I think you can do some kind of technical stuff about stage management, or lighting, or that sort of thing. But the point is that Tisch exists as its own college within the larger university of New York University. Just a couple of definitions to sort of keep terms straight initially, because I’m sure many, many of you are familiar with this, but for those that aren’t, hopefully this is a little bit helpful.
But, with that, with that glossary out of the way, let’s jump into some of the big, big factors, some of the important factors to consider when you are starting your college research, or when you’re first making a list of schools. I think probably the biggest factor for the vast, vast majority of students, is cost. It is certainly something to think about. College is incredibly expensive, and the costs are only going up. I took this data from a big study that the College Board did recently. This is comparing costs for tuition, and room and board for one year of college at a four year private university, and then a four year public university. Note that the public comparison is in-state. So this would be if you live in California and you’re attending UCLA or Berkeley, but not if you live in California and are attending the University of Arizona.
Out of state tuition tends to be much higher, even at public schools, because they’re designed to serve their individual state populations. But you can see here both. One, the numbers are very large. These are, again, college costs a lot of money, and thinking about how you are going to finance that, thinking about how you’re going to pay for that, or if you can. And for that matter, making sure, students, that you have a conversation with your parents about this. Probably the saddest thing that you can see as a teacher like me is, if a student does not have that conversation with their parents and the parent lets them apply to some school that they’re not going to be able to afford. And maybe the parent just doesn’t think the student’s going to get in or something, and the student gets in.
Then we have to have the conversation, and that’s a deeply, deeply unpleasant conversation to have at that point. So strong, strong suggestion that is part of your college search, that’s part of your preparation for the college application process, students, that you sit down and have a serious talk with your parents about money, about how much this is going to cost, about how they expect it to be paid for, and how you expect it to be paid for. Some parents will have very strong opinions, for example, about whether you should work while you are attending college, or how much financial contribution you’ll be expected to make, compared to them. And of course, there’s just the simple fact of needs. Can this be afforded regardless of who’s going to pay for it?
So, it is definitely something to think about. It is not something you want to just sort of pretend doesn’t exist, or you don’t need to deal with. Of course there are many, many ways to defray these costs. There are scholarships, there’s work study, there are grants, there are loans. There’s lots of opportunities to either borrow or get financial aid, and that of course, goes into the process of applying for college as well. But nonetheless, even with financial aid, for the vast majority of students, college is going to be a major, major expense. And it is one that needs to be considered and planned for from the beginning, and throughout the application process.
Another thing to think about, at least in general, is just how big is this school? How many people are we packing onto this campus? “When I walk across campus, am I going to recognize everyone? Am I going to recognize a few people? Am I going to see strangers every day?” How much that matters to you is something you have to figure out. There are some people that love to be in really populated places. I lived in New York City, for example, for a couple years right after college, and then immediately moved to Las Angeles. In other words, the two most populous cities in this entire country. I tend to appreciate that sort of thing. I tend to like it, but there are many, many students who it would feel way too big. It would feel way too crowded. It would feel way too anonymous or whatever.
So you kind of want to think about that yourself. I put a little kind of jokey classification scheme down there at the bottom for the different sizes of colleges based on the number of students, but it is something very much worth considering. Think about your high school. Does it feel tiny to you? Do you feel like by the time you’re a junior or a senior, you know everyone and you just can’t wait to get out to some place bigger? Does it feel too big to you? Does it feel like you could stay there for another five years and not get everything you could out of it? Or you could keep making friends forever, or what have you? That perception, the way that you perceive your high school and how big or small it is, will often effect your preferences and your ideals when it comes to selecting a college.
Of course there are other really important metrics when it comes to population. In general, as the overall population gets bigger, the class size grows, the student to professor ratio grows. Not always though. Sometimes schools can kind of get ahead of that, or they can change around the way they set up their classes or instruction, so as to keep these metrics in a good range. And of course, you have to decide whether it matters to you. Most students prefer smaller classes. They like smaller, more intimate settings where they’re more likely to be able to interact directly with a professor where they can ask questions and that sort of thing. Some students though, may prefer the anonymity of a large classroom. Just another place in the crowd where they can do their work, and turn it in, and get their grades, and kind of move on. Again, it differs from student to student, but it is definitely something that you should think about, that you should have a preference about.
Another thing to kind of consider. Most schools will advertise just an overall average. “Our average class size is this.” And that’s not necessarily very helpful for knowing what your average classes might be when you attend that school, or if you were to attend that school. For example, maybe part of what’s driving those enormous class sizes is that this school has enormous lectures for first year science courses. So there’s huge Chem 101, and Bio 101, and Physics 101 lectures, but then most other courses aren’t nearly that big. Well, if you’re not going to be a science major, it could be that you’re effective class size will be much, much smaller if you attended that school. Than if you were a science major. And again, that’s just a hypothetical example. I’m not saying that’s true of any given school, but it is a big thing to look out for.
Another thing to pay attention to is whether the large classes exist at every level as you become a junior and senior, and you’re taking upper level courses in your major. Are those still big old lectures? What does Chem 300 look like? What does Chem 450 look like? Or, do those narrow down into smaller classes and seminars? Similarly to class size is student to professor ratio. Many schools will work very, very hard to keep this low, to make sure that there’s not as many, not too many students per professor on campus.
But another thing to keep in mind here is, do those professors actually teach? Because if those professors are just there, and they exist, and they do their research, and maybe work with graduate students or something like that, that doesn’t necessarily help you, the undergraduate, in terms of what your class is like, or what your experience in college is like. So it’s a good metric to pay attention to, but if you can dive a little bit more deeply, you can find out a little bit more about what that is really like, that can be very, very helpful as well as you’re doing your research.
Third thing is just academic reputation and strength. Is this a good school? And more importantly, is this a good school for my chosen field or general area of interest? Now, many students will change their majors. Many students will show up in college and end up leaving with a totally different degree than they had expected or attended. That is okay. That is allowed, but nonetheless, even if you don’t know specifically, “I’m going to major in this,” you may still have a pretty good sense of the general field. You may know that, “Okay, I don’t know if I’m going to be an economist, or political scientist, or what, but I think I’m going to do social science. I think it’s going to be … Those are the classes that I’m going to be most interested in, or I know that I’m going to end up with a STEM degree, but whether that’s chemical engineering or mechanical engineering, I’m not totally sure yet.”
Again, generally speaking, if a school is really strong in one field or one area, it’s going to be pretty strong in adjacent fields or related areas. So how can you know if it’s strong? Well, there are some ways that are just kind of obvious if you’ve heard of them too, that people talk about it all the time. If you want to be an engineer, I can promise you MIT is strong. You don’t even have to do any research. I can just tell you that off the top of my head, but if you’re not sure, if you’re evaluating a school that you haven’t necessarily heard of, or you don’t know that much about, or it doesn’t have a national reputation, you can look at selectivity.
But if you’re not sure, if you’re evaluating a school that you haven’t necessarily heard of, or you don’t know all that much about, or it doesn’t have a national reputation, you can look at selectivity. What do the admit percentages look like? Are there special requirements to getting into a specific degree program, or a specific major because so many students are trying to get into it? What are the qualifications of people who do get accepted look like? How impressive are they, and how do they compare to yours? National reputation can of course matter. If you have a degree from a place like Yale, or Stanford, or Harvard, you can pretty much any state in the country and people will be pretty impressed by that and be willing to offer you a job or that sort of thing.
But another factor to really consider, especially if you have a good sense for where you want to live, or if you intend to live, if you ultimately intend to settle near your college. And I get, I know that not everybody knows this, and I wouldn’t expect you to know it. It’s totally okay to be uncertain about some of this stuff, but if you do have that sense, the regional reputation of a school can often be just as useful in terms of finding employment, in terms of helping you out after you graduate. One example of this is state law schools. The best law schools in the country, again, have national reputations, so if you graduated from Harvard Law, from Stanford Law, UCLA Law School, or something like that, you could get a job totally far away from that law school in a totally different state.
But within states, quite often, along with the really strong nationally known programs, the state law school is going to be a fear to lots, and lots of important and powerful law positions in that state. A lot of district attorneys, and public defenders, judges, will have gone to … In Indiana for example, will have gone to Indiana Law School; or in Texas, will have gone to the law school at UT Austin. So it’s just another thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating these specific programs, making sure at your school is whether it seems to be well known within that state, or within the general region.
Another thing to check out in addition to majors that are available is, if you know for sure that you want to go to some sort of graduate professional school. You know that you want to be a lawyer, you want to be a dentist, you want to be a pharmacist, you want to be a doctor, is a pretty common one. You of course want to check to see how successful our students that want to go into those fields are doing so. How well do students coming out of this pre-med major, do they get into med school? Do they get into good med schools? Do they get into the med schools that they want to? Likewise, with pre-law students and so on, and so forth. Now sometimes I hear from students that they want to eliminate a school from consideration because it doesn’t have a pre-med program, or it doesn’t have a pre-law program, or something like that.
I think that’s a mistake. I think that generally speaking, most schools will have something that is a good substitute, or is pretty close. In other words, I promise you, almost every school has a way for you to attend that school as an undergraduate, and then go to med school. Now they may not call that pre-med, they may just say, “Yeah, go major in bio and take a couple of these specific classes so that you qualify, so that you meet the requirements.” But that could be just as fine. That could be fine. It could be that a bio major at another school is essentially equivalent to a pre-med major at this school.
That said, the exception to this rule is particularly if you have an interest in something that’s narrow, or maybe a little bit less common, or that’s regional in some way that has some kind of specific requirement. You’re not going to learn a bunch of agricultural science at NYU I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but given that it’s located directly in the center of New York City, and you’d have to go pretty far away to get to a farm, that probably wouldn’t be your best bet for that. So example here is marine biology. If you want to be a marine biology major, it would probably be who of you to go to a school that has some kind of access or nearness to the ocean. That is somewhere coastal.
Again, not a guarantee, but certainly a strong thing to consider or pay attention to as you are thinking about what you intend to study and how the school can serve that. So we hit on a couple of the major factors in terms of the programs that are available, and the strength of those programs, thinking about your education. We talked about cost, we talked about the different types of colleges that you might be attending and kind of a little bit about…
That you might be attending and kind of a little bit about just some basic definitions and terms and stuff. Let’s think about some additional factors that really do matter. The first one that I think is a big, big deal is location. Now, I don’t want to make too much of this because I think that often times students turn up their nose at schools that, if they actually went, they really would enjoy it or they would find them fun or they would be annoyed for two weeks and then get over it, but it is nonetheless worth thinking about. If you pick a school that is in a location that makes you miserable, it is going to be a very long four years or at least X number of years until you can transfer. Probably the easiest or sort of first thing to think of is just: Is this thing in a city, is it a suburb, or is in the countryside? There are benefits and drawbacks to both.
My brother, like I said, went to NYU. He lived in the middle of New York City for four years and I don’t think he’s ever left. He still lives there. He loves the city. He didn’t care at all that there was no big, grassy area to play soccer or to play Frisbee or something like that. That just wasn’t part of his interests. He lived in basically high rise apartments and dorms the entire time and then he moved into something pretty similar once he graduated and then moved into the workforce and stuff like that. He likes the restaurants. He likes all the different entertainment options, the plays and the movies, and the fact that culture is so big and omnipresent there. He doesn’t mind the crowds. He doesn’t mind getting on the subway and jostling with people or the fact that there’s always cars honking and it’s really noisy even late at night and that sort of thing.
He doesn’t even mind that it’s super expensive to live in New York City or at least he thinks it’s worth it, but you may feel differently about some or all of those things. I know people that they visit New York City for a couple of hours and they can not to wait or at least to get to a private place, to an apartment, where there’s just not so many people everywhere. You know, when you’re in a city, you’re in that city all the time. It’s not like you can always kind of get away or get that sort of quiet that you might crave or that you might seek. On the other hand, like I said, there’s a ton, a ton of benefits to living in a city, even beyond this. There’s the professional opportunities that are available in cities that aren’t necessarily available. You’re not going to find a major law firm, generally speaking, out in the countryside or a big time biotech firm that has internships for undergraduates is usually going to be located somewhere reasonably urban. That’s another kind of factor to consider there.
Suburban schools are kind of a nice way to split the difference. You have access to cities. It’s not like they’re so far away that you could never drive in or take a bus or get a ride with a friend or what have you, but there is green spaces. There’s outdoors. There’s space. They tend to be a little bit quieter. They tend to be not quite so crazy college when it comes to the stereotypical stuff. Sometimes students kind of perceive them as boring or there’s not enough to do or they can feel a little sterile sometimes if they’re just in kind of cookie cutter suburbs, but they can be really nice and relaxing and have a lot of space and amenities that an urban campus simply cannot afford or simply cannot cram in with the urban area. Again, there are benefits and drawbacks each and it’s worth considering what you like, what kind of makes sense for you, or what you prefer.
Lastly, it’s sort of more rural campuses. Particularly, if you’re interested in some kind of nature-related field or major, you’ve got your agricultural sciences, forestry or something like that, much like you don’t have necessarily access to big time businesses in the countryside, you do have access to nature. You do have access to trees and animals and all kinds of other stuff that can lead to field work and applied stuff in those majors. Generally speaking, it’s not like you’re going to go out and find a whole bunch of entertainment options or ways to amuse yourself off of campus. Your life in terms of that, your social life is going to be on campus. That can be nice. That can lead to, again, a really tight knit university community or college community, but it can also, you know, feel a little like you’re in a bubble. It can feel like, “Man, it would be nice for this semester to end and me to be able to experience a little bit of different or something new,” whereas that’s almost never a problem when it comes to your urban campuses.
Another thing to consider, and maybe this should even be a major factor. I’m not sure. I kind of went back and forth as I was working on this presentation, but what happens to students when they graduate? We all have heard the sort of joke about if you major in poetry, what kind of job are you going to get, that sort of thing, but even if you do major in a field that, you know, seems to sort of attract into you a profession or attract you into a job, how successful are graduates of this school at getting those jobs? What kind of salaries do they get when they graduate? What do their salaries look like five years after they graduate? A couple of great sites that have a lot of data on this are Forbes and NerdWallet. If you go there, NerdWallet has an incredible blog that has a ton of data-driven posts about this sort of thing.
You know, this is also something to think about of course when you’re thinking about what you want to major in or what you want to study is, “Am I going to be able to get a job doing this? Am I going to be able to earn a living and live in a lifestyle that would make me comfortable and happy if I go into this field or if I major in this thing?” Again, it’s just something that you really do want to start considering. Different schools will be better or worse at this. Sometimes you’ll see two different schools that seem pretty similar in terms of the caliber of student that gets admitted, in terms of the sort of overall national ranking or something like that. Yet, the graduates of one school, the chemical engineer graduates of school A tend to earn $5,000 more than the chemical engineer graduates of school B. That’s a really strong recommendation for school A.
That’s a strong indicator that program is doing something that employers like, that employers value literally monetarily in terms of those salaries. If you see data like that, that’s a really good indicator that this is a place that you actually want to go, that you’re going to kind of get your money’s worth. If you think about it, you’re going to college to learn a bunch of stuff to prepare you for the real world, to prepare you for the professional world of some kind. It’s not to say that only people who are highly paid are successful or anything like that, but it is an indicator. It is a sign that someone values people with that set of skills or with the set of skills and abilities that they teach, that they instill in their students at this college or university. That’s a really good indicator that is something that you might gravitate towards.
This is a good one for me. I grew up in southern California. I’m from the Greater Los Angeles area. When I was applying to schools, I applied to a bunch of schools on the east coast, including Yale, and a lot of people kind of looked at me funny. I like the beach. I wore shorts 330 days a year or something when I was in school. They said, “You know it’s cold there. You know it snows there.” I would kind of laugh and go, “Yes, I understand that it gets cold there. I can put on a jacket. It’s not a big deal. I like snowboarding. It’s not like I’m afraid of the snow or I can’t handle it or something like that.” I mean, I could handle it. I got through it. I really enjoyed my time at Yale. It certainly wasn’t a deal breaker, but, man, did I underestimate how much I would be affected by the weather day to day.
I was shocked at just how much waking up for the 10th straight or 50th straight day of freezing cold, have to put on 15 layers before you go outside and then to take them all off as soon as you get back inside, and then do that again and again and again four times, five times a day every time you go in or out of a building. You just to start to get annoyed with it. It just starts to beat you down a little bit and you might become a little bit snappy or you might become a little bit moody or whatever else or you might just be totally fine with it and not think of it as a big deal at all or actually really like that kind of weather. Again, I’m not saying that it should be a deal breaker. I’m not saying that you should look at a place and go like, “Nope, never going there because of the weather,” although, again, if you are particularly sensitive to this, it’s something to think about, but I would watch out in particular for weather patterns that are unfamiliar to you.
I grew up in a desert. Southern California is literally a desert by definition. We don’t get very much rain at all. It is dry heat all the time. I cannot stand Florida. Florida is wet heat. Florida is humid. Florida makes my skin feel very kind of sticky and eww. I am not a big fan of humidity. It’s just not my favorite. Even though I’m totally fine with heat and I don’t mind it at all, if you told me I had to go to a humid place and live there, I would probably be pretty annoyed. For other people, it’s rain or it’s wind or they just can’t deal with snow and they don’t want to drive in it or whatever else. I think that in particular if you only ever experienced certain types of inclement weather as a novelty, in other words, you’ve driven to it or you’ve visited it or you’ve been to a place that has this kind of weather for a very short period of time, and then you came back to the place that you’re used to, you may underestimate the impact of weather on your day to day.
Again, like I said, I would go snowboarding when I was growing up, go up the mountains and we’d spend all day in the snow and throw snowballs at each other and be cold and whatever, but then we’d drive back to southern California a couple days later or that evening sometimes if we were just going up to a local mountain. It didn’t occur to me that snow was anything but fun and outdoor sports and whatever else. Then, I got to Yale. Bugs is another one. Not a lot of bugs in southern California, certainly compared to a place like Connecticut where there’s kind of more humidity and mosquitoes thrive a little bit more. If that’s something that’s going to drive you nuts or you’re not going to like or you’re just going to be sort of taken aback by, something to consider. Student housing. Do the dorms have air conditioning and who controls that air conditioning? In other words, do you actually get to change it or adjust it in your room or in your suite or is it something that’s like set at the floor or the building level and so even though it might be incredibly hot, the AC is not really turned to the level that you would appreciate or that you would prefer? Again, don’t think it should be the biggest factor or the factor on which you make your decision, but it is something to think about.
Okay. We’ve identified a whole bunch of factors to consider. Now let’s talk about how to actually research those schools. The first thing that you need to do before you even look up a single school is to think about yourself because ultimately, as much as things like the essay matter and stuff like that, the two dominant factors that determine college admissions are grades and scores. What is your GPA and how is that weighted essentially, like the GPA with consideration for how many of those classes are honors classes or AP classes or really impressive courses like that? Then, you know, what are your scores in terms of SATs, ACTs, maybe SAT subject tests, stuff like that? Both the BigFuture website on the College Board and Naviance are excellent resources.
They will allow you to enter data about yourself or if you’ve already got data about yourself on the College Board’s website because you have a College Board account, they can generate lists of good matches. They will say, “Hey, here’s a bunch of colleges that are kind of in the range of your scores.” Then, they have a whole bunch of check boxes that often have to do with some of the factors that we listed earlier. You can say, “I want to go to a school that has more than 4,000 people that I’m a good fit for in terms of grades and scores that offers this kind of major that’s in a city.” You can sort of check off all the factors that you like and then run a search. The sort of results of that search are a really good place to start in terms of creating your college list.
Now, what’s a good number of schools to apply to? That really depends student to student because it is important that however many schools you apply to, you do good work on all the applications. If you turn in a poor application, you might as well just not apply to that school in general is my belief. Roughly speaking, you want to have three types of schools on your college list by the time you finish it. You’ve got your dream schools, you’ve got what I’ve called your standard schools or your regular schools, and then you’ve got your safety schools. Dream schools are schools that you do not have a very good chance of getting into, but if you got in, you would definitely go. You shouldn’t be applying to a dream school that you’re not totally sure you even want to go to. That’s a good way to waste money, at least in my view.
You know, you still have to be at least a little bit realistic when it comes to dream schools. I mean, it’s not a dream school if you’re not below the sort of standard average qualifications or expectations for admitted students. That’s the definition of a reach school or a dream school. It’s one that you would have trouble getting into or it’s not all that likely that you’re going to get into it, but there’s a chance. Maybe everything breaks right. Maybe you write an amazing essay. Maybe there’s something else about your application that really clicks with the admissions officer or you get an awesome recommendation from one of your teachers or whatever. Something happens to tip the balance. There is a chance in college applications. As much as we might wish there wasn’t, there is. Two equally qualified identical students could apply to the same school and sometimes one will get in and one will not.
You know, certainly college admissions officers work very hard to reduce that thing and make as fair of decisions as possible and as good of decisions as possible, but there is still chance there. There’s still randomness there. There is sometimes where two different people will react to a given essay very, very different ways or to a resume or a list of achievements or accomplishments or what have you. You want to have a couple of dream or reach schools. I wouldn’t recommend having like 10 or something like that. Again, I suppose you could if you have the money and don’t mind paying for all those applications that are unlikely to succeed and you don’t mind doing all the work of applying to all of those schools, which is going to be substantial, but I think generally speaking, a couple of these, two or three, is a reasonable number. Although, of course you could go up if you like.
Standard schools are schools where you’re kind of right around the median. When you look at the average qualifications of students who get into that school, who are accepted by that school, you know, you look like that. You’re kind of smack dab in the middle of it. These are schools where you have a pretty good shot of getting in, but by no means a guarantee. You’re kind of the average accepted applicant to that school, not just the average applicant. There, I think you probably want three to five. You can certainly go more. I’ve seen students get up to like 10 or 12. I think though that sometimes when students apply to that many schools, they’re not really being all that rational because they end up applying to schools that there’s essentially no way that they would attend.
If you get into that school, like, for example, let’s imagine that you have a school that is a more difficult school to go into but you have an easier school to get into that you prefer for whatever reason. Maybe it has a better major for you or maybe it’s closer to home or maybe it costs less but whatever. There is a school that you’re going to have a better chance of getting into than this other school and you would prefer to go to it. Well, in that case, there’s not much point in applying to the first school because if you do get in, you’re getting into that other school anyway and you’re going to go there. There’s no situation or there’s a very, very tiny situation where you’d end up going to that school. You want to reserve those for your safety schools.
Of course you want to be able to go to college next year. You don’t want to be in that situation where you overestimate your own qualifications and so you only apply to schools that are perhaps more difficult to get into than you expect and you end up rejected by everyone. That’s kind of the worst case scenario. That’s why it’s so important to have a couple of safety schools, a couple of schools where you are significantly above the median in terms of accepted students or students that end up attending that school. Thus, your chances of getting in as an applicant are quite high. You have a really, really good shot of getting in if you apply. You still want to be willing to attend that school. It does not count as a safety school if even you get in, you’re not going. That’s just nothing. You know, you want to have a couple of backups. You want to have a couple of if everything goes wrong, I can still go here and get a good education and be happy with my college experience.
What does that add up to? We’ve got one, two, three, four, five to 10 schools. I think that’s a totally reasonable number. I’m sure you’ve all read articles or heard stories about people that applied to 15 or 20 schools. Again, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of purpose to that. I think quite often the bottom five to 10 of those schools are schools that student never had any intention of attending anyway. That’s that. Once you’ve jotted down a bunch of those schools and got that preliminary list, you want to start trying to find out a lot more about those schools other than that you might be a fit in terms of your qualifications. Talk to parents. Talk to siblings or relatives. Talk to your friends, especially older students that might have gone off to college. If you’re a junior now or you’re a senior now and you’ve got kids that are a year or two older that you know, that you’re friendly with, that are at school X, Y, or Z. You can ask them how it is. You can text them or IM them or what have you.
Counselors I think is another really, really important one to talk to. I know when I was in high school, for example, I did not speak to my guidance counselor very frequently. I don’t think I even knew who she was until I was like a junior but that was a mistake. Guidance counselors often are good sources of information about lesser known schools, especially local. They may have heard of some liberal arts school that has, whatever, 800 students that you’ve never heard of but that has an awesome program in X that would be just the right fit for you or where you would end up being really happy. You might not ever find out about that school without talking to your counselor or without casting a little bit of a wide net. Definitely talk to some people.
Go to college fairs. Most of your high schools will have college fairs. Sometimes there’s other just sort of public ones over the summer. Definitely walking through and going by some of those booths and picking up some brochures, especially, again, for schools that you might not consider, that might not have heard of. Then we talked about some of the video online search engines and college websites that can help you narrow down not just by your qualifications but also by your interests, by the majors that you’re interested in, by all those other facts that go into choosing a school that’s good for you. If you can visit campuses in person, it’s a great idea to do so, not only because … Well, there’s a couple reasons.
As it says here, you can often get good, vivid anecdotes to include in your personal statements. One of the types of essay questions that many students have difficulty with is the why us essay. This is the college asks you, “Hey, what makes the University of Pennsylvania a great fit for you?” Or, “What features of our campus attract you to us and why are you a good fit for our school?” Those can be really, really challenging for students to write uniquely, for students to write something about that school that they’re not just writing about every school. “Oh, I think you have a great biology department and I’m really interested in that because I want to be a doctor.” Well, you could write that about almost any school in the country and it doesn’t necessarily distinguish the school in question, whereas if you visit and you sit down in a professor’s class or you interact with a current student or you witness a funny event or a tradition, whatever, being able to talk about that and being able to say credibly that
Being able to talk about that and being able to say credibly that I saw this and felt good, or I liked it or I felt included, or I felt like a part of it already, or whatever. That can be power. That can be a strong way to answer those questions. You also just get a feel for the school, the campus, for what life is like there. That can be a little bit misleading. Obviously, you’re only there for a day or for a couple hours. But it can be helpful, it can give you a sense.
I certainly wandered around Yale one day, I wandered around Harvard a couple days later, and I came home with a strong preference for Yale. I can’t even totally articulate why. It was maybe a little bit more relaxed, it was a little bit more chill, it seemed a little bit more fun. I don’t know, but I did come away with that feeling, and it definitely influenced my ultimate decision, in terms of where to apply. But also fun, usually. It’s a nice way to spend a day or part of a day. And you’re envisioning your future in a way that’s beneficial.
But of course, not everyone can afford this. Many schools are very far away from where you live. That’s okay. A lot of our schools do have things like virtual tours and videos on their websites, on YouTube. Obviously, it’s not as good as an in-person campus visit, but they can still be beneficial. They can still give you some of that feel, some of that sense. You can at least have a sense for what it was like, which is nice.
When you go on your campus visit, definitely, definitely, definitely attend an information session. Okay? And take the official tour and make sure that you sign up on whatever list you have to sign up for that, or email in advance. The basic point is that you want your name in their database as someone who showed interest in the school. When you apply out of the blue saying I wanted to go to your school since I was 12 years old, and I’m so excited about it, and they look back and see that you never took a tour, you never attended an information session, and you never registered for an email newsletter or any of that stuff, but again, it’s not like a deal breaker, but it can be nice if you have that sort of history of interest that you are claiming when you apply.
Of course, you want to get off the beaten path too. I wouldn’t recommend just taking the official tour. I think one of the best things you can do is just wander around a little bit after the tour and just see what you see, maybe pop your head into a class or sit there and look for a little while, maybe if a student will show you their dorm room or show you the dining hall or something like that, or the library, that would be cool too. But again, wander around and try to get a sense or a feel for that.
You do, of course, want to pay attention to the places where you’re going to be spending a lot of your time. So what do the classrooms look like, what do the labs look like, what do the dorm rooms look like, and associated student facilities like gyms or rec centers and stuff like that. Where do kids go to study, are those places well appointed, are they quiet, are they places that you could see yourself concentrating for long periods of time? What’s the food like, where do students eat? Is it you get some card and you go to a big sort of like mall food court that has a bunch of fast food charts, or is it more of a traditional dining hall where the food is prepared by employees of the college or some combination thereof, or something different entirely? Again, you just want to know because you might be surprised at how much you prefer one or the other, or something turns you off, or what have you.
That is pretty much it for this evening. Let me do a quick rundown and recap, then I will make a couple of reminder announcements and tell you all to download that coupon again, and then we’ll do a little bit of Q&A here. So we talked about the different types of schools and the difference between a research university and liberal arts school. We talked about some of the major, major factors to consider when you are winnowing down your list of schools, like costs, the size and the characteristics of the student population, especially as it relates to class sizes and the likelihood that you will be interacting with professors in smaller groups versus in giant lecture halls and mostly working with graduate students, especially in your freshman and sophomore years.
How strong are the programs offered at this school, or the majors, and do they have the programs and/or majors that you are potentially interested in and track into the field that you hope to go into, or the profession that you are intrigued by. Where is it? Right? Is it in a city, is it outside of a city, is it way far away from anything, what’s the weather like there, and do graduates of that school do, or that sub-school, or that major do in terms of getting jobs, in terms of making money, in terms of achieving success, or at least being on track to achieve success in their fields?
Finally, we talked about research and the value of a couple of the major, major search engines out there like Naviance and BigFuture, where you can not only find schools that fit your qualifications, that fit your scores and grades and whatnot, but that also have all the characteristics, all the bells and whistles that you specifically are looking for and what. Then we talked about how to differentiate among dream schools and safety schools and what we call standard schools, and some rough guidelines for how many of each is a good idea to have, in terms of your finalized list of schools to which you are going to actually apply.
As I said before, I think C2 is really, really good at helping students. I mentioned the coupon that anyone can download in the handouts area of your go to webinar control panel there. The reason that it’s valued at $120 dollars is not because you get to come in and take some super-duper fancy test. It’s because you get to talk to one of our center directors about the results of that exam and what that means for your view or your student’s future. What are we going to do for the next six months, over the next six weeks, or whatever, to help you meet your goals and to set you up for long term success?
This starts with C2 students quite often with sometimes a high school application, sometimes a middle school map, sometimes with SATs or ACTs, but it often concludes with college, right? And your center director can be incredibly helpful in helping you identifying these schools and shepherding you through the application process, and of course, our tutors will help you with your essays, right? Will help you brainstorm, will help you edit them, will help you come up with good ideas for them and make sure they are as perfect as they can possibly be, and you can be as proud and happy as you possibly can be with your applications as you submit them.
Again, I strongly encourage you to download that coupon. Beyond that, I said I will take some questions, so I will do so now. Just one more reminder, if you would like C2 to reach out to you, go ahead and put your name, your zip code and your phone number into a question and submit those three pieces of data as a question, and I will make sure that whatever center is closest to reaches out to you with a phone call as soon as possible.
So a couple of questions here, that we will take before we wrap up this evening. I see a lot of people can see up here, which is excellent. I got a question here, this is a classic question type that I get in these webinars, which is here is a number, whether it’s an SAT score, an ACT score, a GPA number or whatever, here’s a couple of other pieces of information. Do I have any chance of getting into X school? And unfortunately, the person actually requested a straightforward answer. I apologize, I cannot give you a straightforward answer because I do not know. There’s simply not enough data there. I think in general, if the things here are totally true, it’s impossible. Everything chance. I don’t think in general, if you are saying do I have a chance at X, generally speaking, that’s a sign that you already know the answer and that your chances aren’t very necessarily good. But again, there’s not nearly enough specific information here to make a decision.
Are research universities the majority of schools that students apply to? I think so, yeah. Like I said, I think that the vast majority of, when you just think of colleges, the vast majority of schools that you will think of will be research universities.
Would you recommend going to the best college your stats or grades allow one to go to? Well, I would recommend going to the best fit college that your stats and grades allow you to go to, but I think it’s different. I don’t think that the best college and the best college for you are necessarily the same thing. Let me give you a couple of examples. For one, I went to Yale and I was really lucky because I had gone to an incredibly good public school that prepared me for Yale. But even still, I was not nearly as prepared as some of the students that have gone to some of the very top private schools in the United States.
They had done a lot more true college level work and college style classes than I had done. So I had to adapt, right? I had to adjust a lot as a freshman. I had to work pretty hard to catch up a little bit to some of those tippy top students that I wanted to catch up to, but I thought I was just as good a student as. But there were students at Yale that had gone to not as good a public school that I had gone to, or gone to not that great private schools, or whatever. Many of those students really struggled as freshmen, and many of them, to their credit, they worked their butts off and by the time they were sophomores or juniors, they were just like everyone else, they were doing great. But some of them transferred. Some of them had really bad grades and had to leave for a little while, or had to go do other things.
It’s not always, you don’t necessarily want to go from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a big pond. That is not something that is necessarily beneficial to all students. It’s something that can be really hard with confidence and to a variety of other factors. The other thing, though, is just because School A is considered to be better than School B does not mean that every single program at School A is better than every single program at School B, right?
So again, if your scores and grades allow you to get into this really fancy school, but that only had an okay, I don’t know, chemical engineering program, whereas there’s a technical school that doesn’t have quite the national reputation, but has an incredible chemical engineering program that is nationally known, or its graduates go on to do incredible work as demonstrated by some of those statistics that we referenced earlier, it could very well be that school would be a better choice for the student that wants to be a chemical engineer than School A, even though the name on the diploma isn’t quite as impressive.
So in general, I think the idea of just saying this is a better college than that is not always a useful way to compare schools because there are so many different factors that go into what makes for a good college for you, versus for this other student. That’s hard to say. Of course, you want to get ambitious, you want to challenge yourself, and if you get into an awesome school and it is a good fit, then yeah, absolutely. You should go. But I do think there’s a little bit more to the decision than just that.
Can you please extend on when you mentioned business administration wasn’t the major that prepares one for business school at the graduate level? I did not mean to say that it was the only major, or imply that you have to major in business administration if you want to go to business school. I think there are a variety of undergraduate majors that will track reasonably well or neatly into business school. I see quite often, for example, students who are STEM majors who have heavy medical backgrounds, maybe their interest is in math majors, but sometimes there are varieties of engineering or physics or even chemistry that go on and do incredibly well in business school, and feel very well prepared for business school.
Of course, the traditional majors like business administration or just economics are classic majors of students that want to go into business school as well, or that want to go into business. But certainly, if your whole ambition, if your whole idea is to be a business person then you want to major in business. And certainly, you could look for a school with a major like that. That would make sense. But again, if you think that there’s some pretty good close substitutes at lots of other schools, even if they don’t offer an “undergraduate business major.”
How much space are there in dorms, especially multi-people dorms? This is exactly why it’s so beneficial to visit and see, because for one, you can read on a website and see that there’s X number of square feet per student. That doesn’t necessarily tell you very much. Or cubic feet, excuse me. But when you walk into a dorm room and see how they packed in all three of those bunk beds, and there’s barely room for the second desk, or whatever, where you see how the students have to contort themselves just to move around, all of a sudden the space can seem a lot smaller than it might have been in a picture where the light was shining in through the window and there were no people in the room at the time.
Again, it really depends school to school, and dorm to dorm. In general, at some of the very, very biggest public schools like UCLA, for example, the dorms tend to be pretty packed, and the space per person is not all that large in the actual dorm room itself. There’s often lounges and common rooms and gyms and libraries, all kinds of other places that students will spend lots and lots of their time, but in terms of the actual dorm room itself, it can feel quite cramped. But there are plenty of other schools where every student gets a single, or every student gets their own room, or other rooming accommodations. So again, I would recommend looking at the individual schools to try and have a sense for that, rather than try to just generalize about colleges and dorm rooms.
What do you think about the US News College Compass? Is it worth $39.95 for a year? I am not actually familiar with that tool, so I cannot make a recommendation on that. I apologize.
Entering junior year in the fall. When should we have our list of schools compiled? In general, I recommend that students start the college application process the summer before their senior year. The earlier in the summer, the better. Obviously, you need to have your list of schools, or it’s one of the first things you want to do in terms of your list of schools. Now obviously, you can’t start too early on this because things like your junior year grades are going to have a big determination on what schools are going to be good fits, or what schools you are going to be qualifying for, so I think you have to wait, basically, until end of junior year before you could really make good judgements about this or reliable judgements about this. Beyond that, I think a lot of students will start thinking about this, or at least dreaming about this, day dreaming about this even earlier in high school and that’s totally fine. I think the rigorous let’s do this analytically and be careful with it should happen sometime at the end of junior year or in that summer.
Money is a big factor for me in my college search, so would it be smart to apply to a college I would not be able to attend without a scholarship in hopes of one? Yes. There are many, many schools out there that essentially promise that if you get in, we will make it so you can come. We will make sure that you have enough money somehow to afford it. Now whether you agree with what they think of as affordable is a different story. But there are schools out there, particularly schools that are really, really well capitalized, your Harvard’s, your Yale’s, your Stanford’s that are often committed to, they have what are called need-blind admissions.
In other words, they make the admissions decision without looking at how much money you have or how much money your parents make, or whether you’re likely to be able to afford it. And then only after they decide to let this person in or help let this person in, then they send the information to the financial aid office and say hey, we’ve let this person in, you need to make sure they can afford it. So schools will generally offer a mixture of loans, grants, work-study. Again, that will vary from school to school, but there are lots and lots of mechanisms out there for paying for college, including federal assistance, including individual scholarships, including all kinds of outside scholarships as distinct from the schools themselves.
So no, you should not let that stop you from applying to a school. And even the application itself, many colleges will waive the application fee if you can demonstrate financial hardships so you don’t have to even pay to apply. So yes, I would certainly want to at least apply to some schools that you think you will be able to attend, you’ll be able to swing the money somehow. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply to other schools that would be more difficult without assistance because assistance is very possible and gettable in some cases.
The two sites that allow you to match scores and GPAs with colleges that I mentioned were Naviance and BigFuture. I’ll put that slide back up. There you go. Right there at the bottom. Whoops, sorry. All right, then I think we’ll take one or two more questions before we wrap up. Thank you again so much for coming this evening.
Oh, yeah. NACAC is a … So someone asked to go over the college fairs, and what NACAC is. College fairs are usually held at high school gyms or big convention centers, and lots and lots of colleges will send representatives. You can go there and wander around and every college will set up a booth and you can get brochures, you can talk to admissions officers or other representatives of the university and just get a little bit of a sense for what it’s like there, what things you might have to do to apply and so on and so forth. NACAC, I can’t actually remember what it stands for. National Association of something. But it is a group that runs lots and lots of college fairs. So if you just Google NACAC, you will likely find a college fair in your area or somewhere nearby.
Okay, last question here. Since each high school’s grading system varies considerably, how can you figure out if a student’s grades are within the range of a particular college? Thanks. I don’t actually totally agree with that. I think most high schools’ grading systems are pretty similar. You get As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs in your classes. As count for fours, Bs count for threes, and all the way on down the line so you’re out of a 4.0 GPA down. Of course, there’s honors classes and honors weighting of five points and stuff like that. The websites in question will generally have ways for you to translate that stuff. Now if your school has some totally different style of grading that’s not an A,B,C,D,F style, maybe they just give you numbers out of 100 or something else, you should do your best to translate your scores into A,B,C,D,F in the way that you assume a college would, and use that as your general guideline.
Okay? All right. Thank you again so much, folks, for attending. Hope you will join us next week as we go even deeper into the actual application process itself. Have a wonderful evening. Good night.