Let’s face it – tuition is a big expense. And at any expense, you want to make sure you make the right choice. To help break down the tough task of choosing a college, we spoke with Lindsay Tulloss, Senior Manager of Success and Client Operations at Peterson’s with 10+ years of admissions experience working with private and public colleges.
What are the considerations for choosing a college in the midst of COVID?
Make a list of what is important to you and then begin your search for colleges. Think about the following and rank your answers in order of importance.
- Will I feel safe? Will my family feel safe?
- What precautions are taken by colleges?
- What about local public safety precautions?
- Do they teach all online or hybrid?
- How about online classes? Still very interesting or dead by PowerPoint?
- Can I take a year break because of COVID?
- What if the college sends everyone home? Do I get prorated tuition fees or prorated housing fees?
- Is this college worth it if I can’t hold live classes? Is it worth it if I can’t be on campus?
- Can I have one dorm room?
- Is there a health center on campus?
Identifying what you were looking for in college and what was most important to you will help narrow down your college search. You can use Peterson’s college search to find the perfect school for you!
What are some key ways to evaluate colleges of interest?
Do your research! Look at the school’s website, attend either in-person (if possible) or virtual events, contact your admissions counselor and show your interest in attending. By interacting with the school, you can learn more, pick up helpful admission tips , and show your interest in school. Some schools see demonstrated interest in their admissions process, so any interaction you have with the school will be beneficial in the admissions process.
What are some tools students can use to identify potential college options?
Make sure you use the available resources to help build your list of colleges. Your high school guidance counselor or college counselor is well equipped to help you navigate through the college admissions process. Peterson’s College Search can help you find and filter additional universities to investigate.
Once you have created a complete list of colleges, take the time to research more about colleges and universities. College websites are a great place to learn more about not only academics, but also the social aspects of the college. College is not only where you will advance your education, but also where you will most likely live and transition into adulthood. Contact your admissions counselor if you have questions, or if something is unclear on the website.
If possible, tour the campus to get to know the campus community better. You wouldn’t buy a house without visiting the house first, and it’s the same with universities. Even if you can’t visit the college in person, there are a number of ways to virtually understand community. Check out virtual tours of the school, open houses, and online events. Contact your admissions counselor if you wish to contact current students to learn more about their student experiences.
How many colleges should you apply to?
According to a 2002 Pew Research study, students submitted an average of four applications for enrollment. In 2017, the average increased to 6.8 enrollments per student enrolled. Most students apply to between four and eight schools.
As you list colleges, include schools that fall into each of the following categories: reach, target, and safety. Reach schools are colleges where your academic credentials are at the lower end of the school’s published average admission range. Reaching the schools may take a long time, but they must be kept within the range of possibilities. Target schools are schools where your academic credentials are within the range of the school average for published admission rates. A safety school is one where your academic credentials exceed the school range for the average first-year student. While there are no guarantees, a safety school is one where you feel confident about being accepted.
Add two of each school type to your list of colleges. Make sure you are happy to enroll in one of the schools you are applying to, not just reach schools.
What should you do if the college you are trying to enter is too expensive?
Schools have a variety of ways to help lower college sticker prices to make them more affordable for students. This financial aid package includes grants, scholarships , or loans (subsidized or non-subsidized). To be eligible for this financial aid option, you will need to complete the FAFSA form and sometimes the CSS Profile . If you have questions about the financial aid process, contact the school’s Financial Aid office. It is imperative that you complete your financial aid application (FAFSA and CSS profile) before the deadline in order to be eligible for your complete financial aid package. It is very difficult to receive funds if you apply for financial assistance after the deadline.
It is also important not to discount schools based on tuition fees. All schools are required to publish a net price calculator to help determine your total cost based on several questions. You can also talk to a financial aid advisor to give you a better idea of how much it will cost.
Some schools need to be aware that students’ financial needs will be taken into account during the admission process. This is usually reviewed at the end of the admissions process to ensure that the institution can fully fund the incoming classes. It is imperative that families submit FAFSA and CSS profiles in a timely manner to ensure that their financial needs can be met by the school.
Make sure you don’t forget to work with your high school counselor to learn more tips and tricks about the financial aid process . Your counselor can provide you with additional scholarship resources . There are usually a number of local scholarships that you can apply for as a high school student.
Should you still consider applying to a college with a low acceptance rate?
Do your research! If you are applying to a school with a lower acceptance rate or reach school, make sure it is still achievable. Contact your high school counselor and / or your admissions counselor to learn more about admission possibilities. Do your due diligence in applying early and putting your best forward in the application . This means completing all sections of the application even if there is something optional like an admissions interview or additional essays . Keep in mind that some schools see demonstrated interest in their admissions process, so any interaction you have with the school will be beneficial in the admissions process.
One way to increase your chances of entry is to implement the original decision if offered. The initial decision is a binding agreement between you and the college you agree to attend if you are accepted. You can only apply to one early college decision. If you are accepted, you must withdraw all applications to other colleges. This is different from implementing the initial action. The initial action plan is non-binding, meaning students receive an early response to their application, but do not have to commit to the college until national college decision day (May 1).
No matter where you decide to pursue your higher education, it is important to do your research, make careful judgments, and use all available resources when making your college decisions.