Your College List Strategy…

Few students will apply to only one school (usually for the purpose of early decision or they have the heart set on their flagship public university), but for the rest September is the time to polish up your final college list and commit to sending 7 to 10 applications.

Smart applicants will cast a wide net of schools that fall into the below categories:

2 Reach Schools

Match Schools

Safety Schools

2 Financial Safeties  

= 10 Applications

Guidelines of  “Reach”, “Match”, “Safety” and “Financial Safety”:

Reach schools– have low acceptance rates, and your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are might be school’s average. The college also has a very low acceptance rate.

Match schools–  means you have a realistic chance of being admitted. For a school to be a match,  your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are above the college’s average and the acceptance rate >30%.

Safety schools–  GPA and SAT/ACT scores are well above the college’s average and the college has a high acceptance rate, >60%. Note that a college hates to be considered a “safety”, so be sure never to mention that you think they are a safety!

Financial Safety– means you apply to schools that you can afford to attend; in-state public college, community college,  or a college which will give you significant scholarship. There are very few opportunities to receive big scholarships. Examples include if you are a recruited athlete, or your SAT/ACTs are outstanding and a less selective college offers “full ride”.

Where to start? You have talked with friends, family, and your guidance counselor. You have attended college fairs and visited a few campuses. Now print a copy of bart “College Comparison Spreadsheet” and start filling it out. Our favorite site for researching a college’s data and fast facts is

Do you want Merit Scholarship offers? Then apply to more “safety” schools and “Early Action” schools. If it is a state university, apply ASAP. Many are rolling admissions so do not wait until the deadline! As the saying goes “the early bird gets the worm, the acceptance, financial aid and the scholarship”! Note that very selective colleges rarely offer merit scholarships, although they will offer financial aid, and that usually means loans.

Applying to several colleges, at about $60 each, is expensive. However, do not limit yourself because of the application fee. Remember you are “casting a wide net” and want to create opportunities to be considered for merit scholarships. If it is too expensive, apply for a fee waiver. Go to  fee waiver application .

Do not let your high school guidance counselor discourage you from applying to your well researched, list of 8+ schools! After you have received several Acceptance Letters, your next hurdle will be comparing tuition, financial aid and maybe merit scholarships.

Many colleges are offering “Priority” applications which often will waive the application fee if you apply by a certain date. Do call your favorite admission office and find out if they are offering “Priority, No Fee” applications. An increase in applications benefits the college’s rankings so many are offering this marketing strategy. Colleges want you to apply to them.

Do you have your List? Now attack those applications!