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Why is the College List Important?

If you know a high school senior this time of year it is likely that you will hear about his or her list of colleges. They’ll probably talk about schools they visited and have decided they want to apply to, and they are now working long hours to complete applications and write essays persuasive enough to be granted admission. One of the biggest mistakes we see students and parents make is in the composition of the list of colleges where they intend to apply.  Not only may the student be denied admission but they may be giving up valuable merit/scholarship opportunities at other institutions.  However, the most important issue that may be overlooked is the right college fit for the student. Will my child be able to succeed in this environment? Will they feel comfortable and have access to appropriate support services?  Does the collegiate atmosphere suit my child's demeanor and personality? Is the school competitive enough or is it too competitive?  The answers to these questions begin to take shape as you and your child attend college fairs, conduct online research, campus visits, information sessions, and webinars.

Unfortunately, a mistake in the composition of this list can be heartbreaking and expensive. Everyone can agree that the cost of college is outrageous by anyone's standard of living. However, even though I rarely encounter a parent who isn't concerned about the cost they rarely take into consideration how the right fit college will help their student get the most for mom and dad's money. Your student needs to be reasonably successful in his coursework or they could be adding an extra year or two at a cost of $30,000-$65,000 a year. Aside from traditional need based aid, another way to offset the high price of college is to explore schools where the student has the potential to receive merit aid or scholarships. If merit aid is important then the composition of your college list is critical. In order to have a high potential of receiving significant merit awards you must be in the top 20% of all candidates for that college.  

In addition to the financial considerations, every student should have an appropriate mix of reach, target and safety schools on their list that they would be happy to attend.  It is important to understand how you compare your student’s success to the college's admission criteria.  A reach school is one where your academic credentials fall in the lower end, or even below, the school's average range for the cohort of students accepted the previous year. Target schools are where your academic credentials (grades, SAT or ACT scores, and class rank) fall well within the school's average range for the most recently accepted class.  Safety schools are where your academic credentials exceed the school's range for the average freshman. You should be reasonably certain that you will be admitted to your safety schools.

The composition of a good college list that is focused on the student's priorities is an art and an area where the Essential College Coaches excel.  Our students are successful in part because their college list supports their priorities and interests yielding competitive merit awards and long term success

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