The Right College List

I just posted a new article on Century City Patch about building the right college list.  It’s an issue that is very important to me.

I would rather see students have a dozen acceptances from which to choose next April than three.  And in order to make that happen, you have to be realistic about the colleges to which you apply.  If you apply to all eight Ivy League schools, don’t assume that the odds are in your favor.  The numbers speak for themselves – only three of the 8 Ivies had acceptance rates over 10%.  Harvard rejects 80% of the valedictorians who apply each year.

I mentioned in the Patch article that a father had recently told me his son was a “shoo-in” for MIT.  Really, there’s no such thing.  I suggested as politely as I could that he should have a few other schools on his list.  The father really insisted to me that his son was qualified.  And he’s probably right!  But the highly selective universities reject students who they say could easily be successful at their schools.  It’s a function of limited space.  The father told me that he figured applying to MIT was like buying a lottery ticket.

I should have asked him – have you won the lottery lately?

So instead of being obsessed with the rankings, and with reputation, look instead for the right fit.  I know you’ve heard counselors say this before, but it’s really true.  The more you get out there and speak to college officials, or read student reviews on college search websites (I like Cappex, but there are lots!), or better yet, visit schools and talk to students, the more you will come to the following conclusions:

1.  Colleges have personalities and you can and should be looking for the personalities that match the student.

2.  There are colleges out there you’ve never even heard of!  Thousands of them!  Which leads you to realize that…..

3.  There isn’t just ONE “right” or “best” college for you.  A number of colleges could be a good fit for your academic, social and extra-curricular style and needs.

Many of these things are professed regularly by an organization called Colleges That Change Lives.  I’ve written a few pieces about this organization and the 40 colleges it represents, and I hope you will take a look.

And finally, the visit thing is really important!  You will know almost immediately if you like a college or not when you walk on campus and talk to students.  You can see my impressions of the colleges I’ve visited in California, here.

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