A little free advice can go a long way. We want to use our blog to start sharing some of the expert advice we offer to our clients at Admitster. While our students are applying to a wide variety of colleges, right now they all share one jumbo-sized problem:
- You’re waiting to hear back from your ED or EA school, and while you’re waiting, you channel your nervous energy into sending out as many applications as possible.
- You’ve added the full 20 colleges to your Common App and can’t remember how many of the schools ended up there.
- Everyone keeps talking about their “dream school” and you feel like you don’t have one. Suddenly, your dashboard looks more like a Netflix queue.
Well, before you spend hundreds of dollars on application fees, and submit subpar applications, I offer this advice:
WHEN YOU MAKE CHOICES, YOU HAVE CONTROL
The admissions committees will decide your acceptance or rejection, but you can channel that nervous energy into making informed choices. Here’s how.
Think about applying to “Top-Choice” (not dream) schools. Anywhere you apply should feel like you’ve chosen the school, just as much as it’s chosen you. Regardless of your admissions projections, you have to both want to AND be able to attend that school. If it doesn’t meet both of those requirements, it’s not worth your time or money to submit the application.
Limit your list.
There is no reason to be applying to no more than roughly nine schools, with two-thirds of these schools being in your “likely” and “targeted” range for acceptance. This is great advice, right, but the next question would naturally be, how do you limit this list?
Know your schools by doing the research.
As you are likely finding out for yourself, while the Common Application has made it easier to apply to a large volume of schools, most schools still want you to answer supplemental questions that ask some variation of “Why our school?” and “Tell us why you’re a good fit”. In order to offer a smart response, you need to have done your research. Browse college websites the same way you delve through Reddit or Distractify, and compile a list of all the unique and interesting things that’s happening at this college. For example:
- What’s being written about in their school news?
- Are there cool research institutes? What are they doing that’s “cutting edge?”
- What internships or study abroad experiences do they offer?
- Are there any interdisciplinary programs that could bring together some of your interests?
- What’s unique about the way they approach your intended major?
Doing this research will pay off, as you’ll gain more insights into the schools to help you make decisions. Moreover, when you write your supplements, you’ll appear much more “college ready” by being able to be specific and targeted in your short responses.
And one more piece of advice for you (and your parents…)
Find your financial advantage
While you’re not applying for financial aid yet, one way to limit yourself from applying to too many schools is to target schools where you might have a financial advantage. Keep this advice in mind.
Schools trying to compete with the Ivies offer more merit aid
Highly selective schools will try to compete with Harvard, Yale, and other Ivies by offering merit scholarships. For example, Duke, Rice, Washington University, Johns Hopkins, University of Southern California, and Brandeis University all offer competitive merit-aid. This being the case, a good strategy may be to swap out an Ivy or two with schools that might better compensate you for your accomplishments.
Think about schools that offer “financial safety”
If you exceed the admissions requirements for a school (e.g. let’s say you have about a 75% predicted acceptance rate), chances are they might invite you into an honors program or give you more significant scholarship aid. Also, you should look for in-state programs that might offer scholarships, not just aid, to their local students.
Now, again, you need to want to go to this school, so spend the time doing the research to understand the opportunities, and find reasons why it would (or wouldn’t) be a good fit. For example, often the local state colleges will specialize in specific programs, such as business, education, or human services. Knowing the strengths of these smaller colleges will help you make the right decisions.
Hopefully this post has helped redirect you if you’ve gone astray. If you would like to talk about your personal application situation (and I know there are binge-applicants among you – there’s no shame…) please email me at email@example.com or call us at (1-800) 803-1541 to arrange a consultation with an admissions expert.
On a personal note: I’d love to hear which questions you’d like to have answered through my “expert advice” blog posts. Please write suggestions in the comments or send me an e-mail!