Developing your college list is a challenging task. Many students who approach us at Empowerly aim to apply to 6 or 7 (or more) well-selected schools, and spread those across safety, target, and reach colleges. So how do most people create these lists today? And how can students use college list data to build a better list for themselves?
Some students create complicated spreadsheets. Some simply apply to colleges that are easily accessible—”schools that are geographically close, or that they’ve heard about from friends. Other students just guess, based on a vague impression.
But there’s a better strategy: one that will help you reduce your stress, find your best-fit campus, and put you on the road to success. Do those benefits sound good to you? Read on.
Empowerly has developed a searchable and sortable tool called the School List Builder. This tool helps students and parents around the world figure out which colleges match their profile. In this article, we will review tips on making a college list, variables to be looking out for, and sample use cases. Researching your college list data is a smart choice.
Tips on the College List
Tip #1: Make sure you have safety schools.
Every applicant should have at least two schools that they consider as “safe.” Though no school is guaranteed, students can feel more confident where they believe that they have an 80% or greater chance of acceptance. These schools are usually local universities with high acceptance rates. Often, a student knows they could attend as a backup case scenario. Note that these schools will be different for every student.
It’s also important to remember that no school will offer a 100% chance of admission, and that a motivated student can make the most of any school you attend. Safety schools should still offer you a meaningful, accessible start for college and beyond.
Empowerly’s School List Builder lets you view a pie chart of all the schools you are considering to determine if you have a balanced spread of admission difficulty.
Tip #2: Apply to more, rather than less.
Sometimes, it’s a numbers game. Students who take the time to apply to more schools… often are the ones who will get more acceptance letters to choose from when admissions season rolls around. Although this is not always true, especially with the rise of early action and early decision, in our experience at Empowerly we have found it to be correlated.
Staying organized when you have many applications in progress at the same time is critical. Whether digital or physical, make sure you have a calendar of deadlines and dates so you know what to keep in mind.
So how do you actually create a college list when it’s time to get writing?
Empowerly has put together a list of 19 different variables that students and parents should consider. These variables include SAT/ACT, GPA, extracurricular activity strength, volunteer work, and more. Each of these variables, or factors in your application, contribute to your overall strength as a candidate. Once you have this information, you can actually start to put the college list data to work for you!