Finding the college that fits perfectly into your list of criteria requires more than simply visiting the college’s website or talking with a representative at a college fair. To understand the strengths and the weaknesses of a college you can use individual college statistics and numbers as part of the evaluation process.
Look at the admissions rates
The smaller the college’s admissions rate, the more competitive they will be on acceptance. Take Harvard for example: only one out of every 14 students who apply will be admitted. Always apply to some schools where the admissions rate is tipped in the direction of the students. Study the numbers and find colleges that fit you well with high admissions rates.
Pay attention to the SAT/ACT range
Compare your scores to the school’s median test scores—the 25th to 75th percentile of admitted students. This will give you an idea of your admissibility. However, don’t focus too much on those scores alone. If you have much to offer, the college has the freedom to give lower weight to those test scores.
Investigate merit scholarships
Schools give merit scholarships to reward academic achievement. If your test scores and grades are competitive, you may have a good chance of being offered a merit scholarship, especially if you apply to a college where your grades and scores are above the average applicant. Private colleges freely distribute merit scholarships more frequently than state schools. Look at the amount of financial aid awarded at the colleges you are interested in applying to. Remember that you must complete the FAFSA in order to qualify for any form of financial aid, including merit scholarships.
Examine the first year retention rate
If the college has a large percentage of the student body that doesn’t return for their second year, there is a reason. Clearly the school is not providing something they want or need. Colleges with high retention rates are worthy of your consideration.
Don’t just fall into a college because you didn’t do enough research. Put in the time and hard work to identify that perfect fit college. Use the numbers to help you find a college that fits your interests and needs.
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Check out my guide for parents: Parents Countdown to College Crash Course
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