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How to Choose Which Colleges to Apply To

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 @ 11:47 AM

Choosing Which Colleges to Apply To

College questionnaireSome colleges, such as University of North Carolina and Georgetown University have already released essay prompts, supplements, or the entire application for the 2012-2013 admissions cycle. When the Common Application and many more school specific supplements are released on August 1st, rising seniors throughout the US and all over the world will officially begin the college application process.

The first and perhaps most important step in the application process is deciding which schools to apply to. Hopefully, you’ve already started researching and visiting colleges and have an idea of which factors are important to you when creating your balanced college list. In addition to looking at majors, courses, and professors, there is also a wide range of social, financial, and environmental questions you need to ask yourself.

To help you, we’re sharing the following questionnaire from Dr. Kat’s book, The Truth About Getting In.

Physical Factors

Which areas of the country will you consider:

  • West Pacific

  • Northwest                  

  • Southwest                  

  • Midwest                     

  • New England             

  • Northeast                  

  • South                        

  • Midatlantic 

Which of the following would suit you best?

  • Urban             

  • Suburban                    

  • Small town                

  • Rural

On what was your decision based:

  • Climate                      

  • Culture                                   

  • Other

How often to you plan to return home?

Do you prefer to be close to home or far away?

Would you prefer to:

  • Commute                   

  • Live on campus        

  • Live off campus

Do you require guaranteed housing for all four years?

Will you be taking a car to school?

If you plan to live on campus, what type of dorm would you prefer?

  • Single sex                  

  • Coed               

  • Theme            

  • Co-op              

  • Other

Campus Size and Social Issues

What kind of campus community are you seeking?

  • Cozy                

  • Anonymous                

  • In-between

Preferred average class size:

What size school do you think will best suit you?

  • Small (under 3,000 undergraduates)          

  • Medium (3,000-7,000 undergraduates)

  • Large (more than 7,000 undergraduates)      

  • All

Are campus cultural issues such as religion, socioeconomic level, or race important considerations in choosing your school?

Are cultural amenities such as museums, theaters, movies, malls, or pro-sport events important to you?

Do you want your school to have a strong Greek life with many sororities and fraternities?

What degree of school spirit (football, cheerleading, campuswide traditions, sense of history, etc.) do you want your school to have?

Which athletic leagues do you prefer?

  • Division I                    

  • Division II                   

  • Division III                  

  • All

What degree of political activism – issues such as workers’ rights, affirmative action, LGBT issues – do you want your school to have?

Would you prefer a liberal or a more conservative atmosphere on campus?

What kinds of social activities should be available? Dances, concerts, sporting events, mixers, arts festivals, movie nights, etc.

Does the degree of drug/alcohol use on campus concern you?

Academic and Extracurricular Factors

What kind of college would you like to attend? Liberal arts, business, engineering, trade, or technical?

Would you prefer a general or specialized curriculum? Do you plan to declare a major immediately?

Would you prefer a set curriculum or a flexible curriculum that you can design yourself?

How much academic structure is important for you? Some smaller, liberal arts colleges have abandoned grades altogether while others offer self-paced, self-designed courses and even self-administered exams. By contrast, large state schools tend to enforce strict core and distribution requirements while offering more standardized examinations. Remember, the less structure there is, the more self-discipline you must have.

What academic level is most suitable for you?

Would you prefer a trimester, semester, or quarterly calendar? Semesters have the benefit of longer summers, but trimesters and quarters give you an opportunity to take a wider array of courses.

How important are the following factors?

  • Academic guidance                       

  • Career counseling                  

  • Ease of course enrollment                

  • Breadth of course offerings            

  • Faculty accessibility                       

Are there subjects that you particularly want to avoid at a college? If so, which ones?

Conversely, what are the academic areas in which you have an interest and that a prospective college must offer?

What extracurricular activities, community service, and athletics do you plan to get involved with?

Do you have any specialty interests that need to be addressed: Music, arts, drama, etc?

Financial Factors

Can you attend college without financial assistance?

Is the availability of on- or off-campus jobs important to you?

Is the cost of living of the surrounding community a factor to consider?

There are thousands of factors to consider when choosing which colleges to put on your final college list. Once you have given careful consideration to all of your academic, social, geographic, and financial options, you will be well on your way finding the schools that are the best academic and social fits for you.


Sarah Shanahan

Written by Sarah Shanahan

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