SATs, ACTs, AP exams, application essays, interviews, the Common App, letters of recommendation – all of these words and phrases can be quite overwhelming for juniors and seniors who are beginning the college search and application process. However, the experts here at Knodemy are here to help. We have all been through this stressful process, and we can help make it less stressful by answering your questions about the college application process:
- What factors should be considered when selecting colleges?
The answer to this question varies greatly from student to student, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to your priorities. Is it important for you to be close to home? Far from home? At a big, public school? A small, private school? Generally, however, here are some questions you should ask yourself when you are selecting colleges to apply to:
- Does it have majors that interest you? This is an extremely important factor to consider because it determines whether or not you can go into the program and take the classes of your choosing.
- Would you be happier at a large or small school? Large schools generally offer a wider variety of classes, and have more major and minor programs. However, they also have huge class sizes, with more than 500 students in a lecture hall. Small schools offer more discussion-based classes, and the chance to get to know your professors on a more personal level.
- Do you prefer urban, suburban, or rural settings? Urban college campuses make you feel like a part of a hustling, bustling metropolitan city; there is a big nightlife scene and always plenty to do. On the other hand, rural college campuses are generally a lot quieter and more laid back.
- Does it offer the extracurricular activities that you want to get involved in? If you know that you want to start a sports team of your own, make sure that the school you are applying to has a strong intramural sports program. If you know that you write for a publication on campus, look into the options that are available at the school.
2. What is the right number of college applications?
There is no magic number of schools that you should apply to, but do not apply to too many. Applying to more than twelve colleges can be considered excessive, and it is time-consuming and costly as well. Try to apply to two safety schools (schools that you are almost certain that you will be admitted to), two to five target schools (schools that you have a reasonable chance of being admitted), and two reach schools (dream schools, that you are unlikely to be admitted to).
3. How important are college visits?
College visits can be extremely helpful in differentiating one school from another, off paper, getting a feel for the diversity, energy, and personality of the campus, and in picking the one that is the “right match” for you. Never underestimate the “gut feeling” you get when you walk onto a college campus for the first time; it may be what helps you decide between one school and the next.
4. What role do standardized tests play?
Although some schools are not emphasizing standardized tests as much as they once did, the large majority of four-year universities still require them. For most institutions, it does not matter if you take the SAT or ACT exam; both are administered several times throughout the year. Many students take both to figure out which one they are naturally better at, and end up taking that exam a second time and perhaps even a third time. It is generally a good idea to take the exam more than once to improve your score. Although there is no limit to how many times you can take the SAT or ACT, taking it more than three times can be considered excessive. Standardized test scores are important; however, high school transcripts hold more weight in the eyes of admissions officers.
5. How important are the application essays?
Essays are good opportunities to let the admissions officer know something about you that goes beyond numbers on a page. Express your passions, talk about leadership positions you have held, paid jobs or volunteer positions, life-changing travels and experiences…etc. In some cases, essays can be the “make or break,” but in many other cases, they are just supplemental pieces to your application. There is no definite answer to how important essays really are; it really depends on the school and the admissions officer.
We hope this post has been helpful to all of you out there who are beginning the college application process. It is easy to let this process overwhelm you, but just take it one day at a time and remember this key information.