Saturday, February 9, 2013

Surviving the Perfect Storm - Choose Wisely

In this series of posts on surviving the college admission storm, we have focused thus far on the importance of keeping perspective and taking a student-centered approach.  

Now to the third tip.

Choosing wisely. 

You get to choose where you apply, not where you get accepted. 

Let me say that again.

You get to choose where you apply, not where you get accepted.

The former is in your control;  the latter is in the sole hands of the admission committee.

The goal then is to craft a college list that reflects the college reality.  

Think of an Egyptian pyramid.  

That’s the college admissions reality.  

There are only about 100 schools that admit fewer than apply (these also tend to be "need" schools that give money to students based on W-2's).  

The lion’s share of schools are still looking for a reason to admit you (and possibly give you a merit scholarship based on your GPA, test scores, and leadership credentials).  

It’s wise then to build a final college list where your academic credentials (GPA, test scores) are in the mid-50% to top 25% range of admitted students at half of your schools.

The impulse, of course, is to flip the pyramid over and apply to a majority of schools in which your credentials are "profile negative."

This is the "7-1" strategy.  

The student applies to 7 "reach" schools with a single digit admit rate.

And then applies to 1 "likely" school with close to a triple digit admit rate.

My advice.  Take a more balanced approach.

1-2 "reach" (25% chance or less) schools.

2-4 "target" (50-50% chance) schools.

And 1-2 "likely" (75% chance) schools.

Sometimes we like to use the term "financial likely" term, but as we're all discovering, it is becoming harder and harder to find these kinds of schools.

For our kids, we encourage them to use Naviance, in particular, which can help the student balance their application list.

Other ways is to look at the 75% to 25% ranges for test scores.  

One of the reasons I do keep a copy of the US News and World Report College Edition is because it provides test ranges that can help the student get an idea of the "competitive playing field," and therefore, what scores they need to aspire toward to get on the field for at least a tryout.