- Creating a Target List that is a Perfect Fit…for You
Early spring of junior year is an ideal time to start researching colleges and developing the target list of schools you plan to apply to. But before you begin conjuring a list of reaches, rights and safeties, stop for a moment to consider why you want to go to college, and what you hope to accomplish in the next four years.
While college is the natural next step for most, pause and reflect on what makes you tick and what really matters to you. College is a major investment, for you and your family. How do your intellectual interests align with potential college majors, and how does study in a particular major prepare you for your eventual career? This should inform the colleges you decide to apply to, and this intention should in turn shape the application that you submit.
If your career aspirations do call for a college degree, the next step is to research colleges beginning with your academic area(s) of interest. For example, if you are committed to a career in engineering or computer science, colleges that focus on technology, such as Wentworth Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) or Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) might be a fit for you. If you plan to pursue a career in sales, marketing, finance, or other business roles, a liberal arts education which includes core curriculum requirements across a range of subjects may be for you.
For some, an undergraduate education is the necessary preparation to enter the workforce, whether you plan on being a software developer or a social media marketer. For others, an undergraduate degree is a required stepping stone to graduate education, whether you want to be a college professor, government economist or medical doctor. On the other hand, if you are planning to join your parent’s construction or catering business, how will a college degree help you? For some, training in a trade or an apprenticeship might be a better fit.
Some colleges are especially well-regarded in a specific academic area. For example, New York University (NYU) and University of Southern California (USC) are well-known for filmmaking, while the University of Chicago is highly regarded for economics. If you are interested in game design, you might instead consider Georgia Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, or Drexel University. George Washington may be a target college if you’ve always dreamed of working for a Washington D.C. non-profit, while Oregon State University may be the perfect school if you are excited about a career in marine biology. Research which universities have robust departments dedicated to your favorite subject.
Other criteria you may want to consider when narrowing your college list include school size, region of the country, and setting: rural, suburban, urban. Do you relish the idea of sitting in an auditorium with 400 freshman for introductory chemistry, and then joining 40,000 raucous classmates at a Saturday football game? Or do you value interacting directly with a professor in a small class of 25 peers, and hiking in the woods with a few friends on the weekend? Are you eager to get out of your hometown, and experience another part of the country, or do you want to be within a half-day drive of home?
Next, put yourself in the shoes of the admissions official. They will be evaluating your high school transcript, GPA, and standardized test scores when considering whether you can succeed academically at their university. Use the intercepts in SCOIR or Naviance to better understand whether a target school is a reach, right, or a safety for you. For example, if your SAT or ACT score and GPA are below 25% for the college’s current freshman class average, the college is a reach for you. A college with an acceptance rate below 9% is also typically a reach for everyone. If you are at or above the 50% for both standardized test score and GPA relative to a school’s current freshman class, that may be a right for you. A safety is a school where your GPA and test scores are at or above 75% of the school’s current class.
If the target university is a state school, such as University of Maryland, Ohio State or University of Michigan, be aware that the school will pull two-thirds of their incoming class from students within the state. College admissions officers also review your participation in extracurricular activities and service in evaluating how you might contribute to student life on campus. Accomplished athletes or performing artists should be in contact with the coach or conductor at target institutions, if they have not already been in contact with you.
Admissions departments strive to assemble a diverse class of students who hail from across the U.S. and around the world. Colleges almost always have more qualified applicants than they can admit, and this is particularly true for schools that are popular among your classmates. For example, if you and 50 of your classmates are applying to, for example, Tufts University, the school is likely to accept 5-10 students, even if 20 from your school are qualified to attend. Given this unfortunate reality, your probability of acceptance might be higher at a school with similar admissions standards in another region of the country.
With more than 4,000 universities in the U.S. to choose from, you can afford to be a little bit like Goldilocks, and find a college that is ‘just right’ for you.
Need guidance tailoring your target school list or crafting your personal statement essay? Contact www.Admit.Fit at (781) 237-7770.
- The Admission Interview: a Complement to Your College Application
Many high school seniors are working diligently to complete and submit their early action and early decision college admission applications before November 1. So once early applications are successfully submitted, what comes next?
Most large colleges, such as public universities or colleges that receive tens of thousands of applications, do not offer admission interviews. However, several small liberal arts colleges or highly-selective universities do. Often, these are conducted by alumni in your community.
Examples of colleges that ‘consider’ interviews in the admission review process include Bates, Dartmouth, Emory, George Washington, Tufts, Tulane, and Virginia Tech. An even smaller handful of schools weigh interviews as ‘important’ in the evaluation of your application for admission. Examples include Georgetown, Lafayette, MIT, Syracuse, and Wake Forest.
If you want to check whether the school you are applying to offers interviews, check the undergraduate admissions section of the college’s website. To understand how an interview may be considered in your application for admission, search the college name and ‘common data set’ and review section C7 of this document.
In most instances, the interview simply serves as an additional data point for the admissions committee, so don’t stress. For example, Georgetown suggests you should,
“…use the interview to learn more about Georgetown and the Georgetown community from the perspective of an alumnus…While the interview report is used as part of the admissions committee’s consideration process, it rarely “makes or breaks” an application, and much more often than not, it works in the applicant’s favor.”
Making the effort to interview demonstrates to the admissions team that you are genuinely interested in attending, and gives the school another chance outside of the written application to consider you as a candidate. As Lafayette College website puts it,
“An interview gives voice to all the parts of your application. It gives us an opportunity to engage with you and it gives you the opportunity to add one more facet, one more distinguishing feature, to your application. It is also a time for you to ask questions about the College and take the time to assess if Lafayette is the right fit for you.
Rarely, if ever, does an interview affect a student’s application in a negative way and in many cases, the interview is what made us decide to admit a student to Lafayette.”
Typically, you can schedule an interview after you have submitted your application for admission. Some colleges manage these interviews within the user portal for applicants. In other instances, your contact information is handed-off to an alumnus who may contact you directly to set-up a time and place to meet for an interview, so periodically check your email inbox, and your spam folder.
Typical topics that may come up in your interview include your academic interests, including what you think you might want to study in college, the extracurricular activities you participate in, and summer or school-year work experiences.
The interviewer may have basic information about you – such as your name and the major of interest you identified in your application, but probably does not have your complete application package. Plan ahead and create a basic resume to have ready to share. You should be able to pull a resume together using a Google Docs or a MS Word resume template. Re-use the activities you included in the CommonApp. The interviewer understands that you are still a high school student and does not expect you to have deep work experience.
In preparation for the interview, do your homework and review the college website in depth. Consider likely questions you may be asked in advance. Jot notes to yourself regarding points you might want to highlight in the conversation. If time allows, ask a family member or a college admissions counselor to conduct a mock interview with you. Practice how you will respond to expected questions, but strive to be natural.
If you know the name of the alumnus who will be interviewing you, look them up online in advance. This simply helps you better understand their background, and you may find you have common interests.
Once you and your interviewer have agreed on a place and time to meet, make sure to be on time, if not a few minutes early, and wear clean, business casual apparel. Neckties, suits or dresses are not necessary.
When you meet the interviewer, make eye contact, and offer a firm handshake at the start and close of your meeting. When you are chatting, make sure to speak clearly. Alumni interviews often take place in cafés, but that does not mean this is the time to chow down. Politely sip a beverage instead.
Be ready with stories or anecdotes that demonstrate or show an attribute, rather than just state that you possess a characteristic. For example, a student who wants to highlight how responsible he is might prepare to share a story about how he makes dinner for his younger siblings when his parents return home late from work, or how he helps his group project teammates stay on schedule to meet a due date.
Come ready with some questions for the interviewer, but avoid obvious questions about information that can easily be found on the college website. Instead, consider asking the alumnus about their experience at the university. Even better, ask a question that leads back to your interest in the school. For example, “I read about the career center on ABC University’s website, and the companies that come to interview students on campus. What was your experience landing your first job after college?”
Keep time in mind – the interviewer is likely conducting multiple interviews, and may have allocated only 30 minutes, but definitely no more than 1 hour to spend with you, so plan your time accordingly. Finish strong by emphasizing that the school is a top choice for you, and thank the interviewer for taking their personal time to volunteer on behalf of their alma mater.
Need guidance through the college admissions process? Whether it is sage advice, expert edits or admissions interview prep, we can help. Contact (781) 237-7770 or visit www.admit.fit.