How To Decide Where To Apply To college

Blueprint offers many resources about how to impress college admissions advisors:  take challenging classes, maintain a high GPA, rock your standardized tests and fill your schedule with extracurriculars.

But how do you decide which college admissions advisors you want to impress?

It’s time to take a look at the schools that make up your top five list and decide where to apply to college. Developing your personal list of top choice colleges and universities is a critical step in the college admissions process. Filling out applications, writing all those essays, takes a lot of time (and can get quite costly!) Narrowing down where you want to apply will create less of a burden on your time and wallett!

The truth is that colleges are competing for students, and most schools need you more than you need them. Education is a business, and you’re the customer.

Let that sink in for a moment…

You are actually the power player here. You get to shop around and choose the college that’s right for YOU.

Your future success depends more on what you do in college than where you go to college.

Do well in your courses. Be active on campus. Connect with professors. Build your personal network. Learn time management skills. Think critically – these objectives will help you progress in your career more than the alma mater on your sweatshirt.

How To Decide Where To Go To College:

Let’s go over some questions to ask yourself when making your list of top colleges and universities.

  • What size classes do you want or need?

    Faculty to student ratio is important to consider if you want personalized guidance and a deeper rapport with your professors. Alternately, some students want the experience of being “one in many,” surrounded by a large group of their peers. Either way, decide what works best for your learning style because it’s imperative that you learn! If you want access to professors –not just the occasional, overworked TA– a smaller institution may be better suited for you.

  • What level of academic rigor are you searching for?

    This is a question worth asking. Are you getting a degree for professional career options, or are you planning to continue your education with an advanced degree? Either way, consider that many post-graduate institutions will assess the strength of your academic career on the rigor of the courses you take…and ranking at the top of your class in Organic Chemistry means more if it was a class of 300, than 30.

  • Do you want to get an advanced degree?

    Many universities offer Bachelor’s to Master’s bridge programs – some also offer Bachelor’s to Doctoral options. If you know you want to further your education and get an advanced degree, consider that when researching your top choice institutions. Better yet: talk with some of the professors that guide that academic trajectory and see what advice they offer for someone just starting out.

  • Do you want to do undergraduate research?

    Not everyone is cut out for research –but if you are, you know it early on! If you want to go into a research-based field, then choose a university with a robust research focus –or a college that encourages undergraduate research.

  • Do you want a large sports component?

    If you want to become an orthopedic surgeon, are fascinated by exercise science, plan on becoming an athletic trainer or just love college ball, then choose a university with a robust sports component. It’ll align better with your future goals.

  • Does the name matter?

    Let’s face it: institutions have a reputation. Are you going into a highly competitive field where the caliber of your alma mater matters as much as (if not more than) your grades? Are you planning a rigorous graduate or academic career? If you answered yes to either of the previous questions, then giving more weight to an Ivy league school or top-rated could be in your future self’s best interest.

  • How far from home do you want to be?

    Another question worth asking. You’ll be juggling courses, a part (or full) time job, and a social life – is visiting home a priority? If so, with what frequency? It’s a little harder to get mom to do your laundry if you’re several states away! In all seriousness, though, you will probably want to return home for the holidays –maybe for longer breaks. What does that look? A short drive, a cross country flight, or something in between? Give it some thought and factor it into your list.

Need more help narrowing down your list? Check out this guest post by Janet Rosier here – or, join us for a summer program where you’ll have the opportunity to refine your list of your top choices.