How To Reevaluate and Create Your College List

It’s that time of year again! The weather is cooling down, back-to-school sales are in full swing, and it’s time to really evaluate where you are in your college application process. You’re going to be back in school pretty soon, so there’s never going to be a better time than now. Let’s talk college lists!

Hopefully, you have a list of colleges you are planning to apply to. You may have toured a few of them, done some interviews, and have an idea of which one is your favorite. Hopefully, you’re set up to get in there. Your test scores and GPA are well above their median, you have solid extracurriculars, and you’ve spent your summer working on your essays and supplements. But what if you’re not quite where you thought you’d be when fall rolled around? What if the school you want to go to the most is now a major reach?

The college process is all about getting you into the best college you can go to, but by best we mean two things. It should be the most respected school you can get into, but it should also (and this is the more important of the two) be a school that will truly work for you. Its academics should match up with your interests, its location should be somewhere you’re interested in being, and its social life should offer things that both make you feel at home while also pulling you out of your comfort zone. We have a habit of defying the odds and every year our kids get into schools that they don’t fit the normal profile for, but we also don’t advise students to apply to schools that are truly impossible. And, unfortunately, some things are just not possible.

So we ask that students take some time before school starts up again to sit down with their lists and to see where they stand. Are your SAT scores well above the range for your safety schools, within the range for your target schools, and no more than 100 points (or 1 point for the ACT) below the range for your reaches? Ask the same thing about your grades. The hard truth is that you aren’t going to get into Yale with B-’s even if your scores are great. Test scores do matter, but you only have a few hours in a room to make or break them. It took you 3.5 yrs to earn the GPA colleges will be judging you off of, so we’re big believers that an exceptional GPA can make up for test scores that are less than ideal.

Literally go down your list, school by school, checking how you match up. If you’re really lucky, you might even be ahead of your projections. Maybe your reaches are more accessible than you thought they’d be, so it might be worth adding a school that’s a little further of a stretch. Maybe, though, it’s time to add a few more safety schools because you’re a bit below where you expected.

Chances are that it’s not the time to retake the SAT/ACT, but it is time to get real, to get honest, and to make decisions that will set you up for success in life. The Ivy you grew up coveting might be out of reach, but for every Ivy there are dozens of amazing schools in large metropolises, small cities, idyllic towns, or the middle of nowhere, that are respected, engaging, and that provide a stellar education. There are literally thousands of colleges in the US alone, so having to get real about one isn’t going to hurt your chances of having an amazing collegiate experience. Looking for other options may even reveal that somewhere you never would have thought of is your perfect fit, and we think that’s pretty awesome.

Our biggest goal is to get you into the best school for you. If want some help re-evaluating what that school might be, we’d love to help you out.