Navigating the College Search: Finding the Right Fit for You

Join our informative webinar, ‘Navigating the College Search: Finding the Right Fit for You,’ designed for high school students and their parents as they embark on the college application journey. In this session, former admissions officer Chelsea Holley will cover essential topics to streamline the college search process:

  • Understanding Your Goals: Define your academic and personal objectives to align with your college choices.
  • Researching Institutions: Learn effective strategies for researching and evaluating potential colleges.
  • Financial Considerations: Explore the basics of college finances, including scholarships, grants, and the true cost of attendance.
  • Campus Visits: Discover how to make the most of campus tours to assess the environment and culture.
  • Q&A Session: Get your questions answered by an experienced college advisor.

Don’t miss this opportunity to make informed decisions and set the foundation for a successful college experience. Register now and empower yourself for a seamless college search process!

Date 03/06/2024
Duration 1:00:54

Webinar Transcription

2024-03-06 – Navigating the College Search/ Finding the Right Fit for You

Thank you.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to navigating the college search, finding the right fit for you. My name is Lydia Hollon, and I’m going to be your moderator tonight, and I’m also a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor. I’ve been with the company for about three years now, and in addition to advising students, I’m the proud co captain of our essay review team.

I’m also a proud graduate of New York University, and in addition to my work with CollegeAdvisor, I’m an education consultant. and a former teacher. To orient everyone with the webinar timing for tonight, we’re going to start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q& A. On the sidebar, you can download our slides and you can start submitting questions in the Q& A tab.

We’ll also be recording this session so that you can review the webinar again later. Now, let’s meet our presenter. Thank you, Lydia. Good evening, everyone. My name is Chelsea Holley and I serve as an admissions officer here at CollegeAdvisor. I’ve worked in the college admissions field for over 15 years, um, at a number of different types of institutions from public, private, liberal arts, women’s colleges, and HBCUs.

Um, I’m super excited to talk about how you can find the perfect institution for you.

Great, so we’re gonna get started with a poll before we get into our presentation. So I’m gonna go ahead and open it up for you all now. The question is, what grade are you in? If you’re a parent, feel free to just answer with that other option. And while you wait, Chelsea, I was just wondering if you’d like to share What it was like for you picking out colleges to apply to?

What things were important to you?

Oh, you’re muted. Thanks, Lydia. Um, so I am, uh, I grew up in a state that had, um, really great scholarship benefits for students who stayed in state. Um, so that was part of, um, the kind of cost factor that I was looking at in colleges. So I chose to stay in Georgia, um, and attend Emory University. Great. Okay, so I see the responses are rolling in.

I’m gonna close it in a couple seconds in three, two, one. So, seems like the majority of our attendees, and it’s split pretty much down the middle, are either parents in that other category or in 11th grade. So, great time to be thinking about this, trying to put together that college list. I know we’re in the middle of it.

Spring semester, so we definitely want to start narrowing down the colleges that we may be considering all right I’ll go ahead and hand it off to you now Chelsea to get us started with the presentation as a reminder again Feel free to put questions in the Q& A tab as the you As they come to your mind, or as Chelsea starts talking about things, we will come back to them at the end of the presentation.

Thank you, Lydia. Um, and absolutely junior year is a wonderful time to begin, um, thinking about the college search acting in the college search, um, and really putting together that college list. So let’s talk a little bit about what that process looks like. Um, I think the first step is incredibly important, which is reflecting on your preferences.

Um, you may have a list of things you know that you want or do not want in a college. Um, or you may have no idea. Um, I’ll talk a little bit about how you can find ways. to discover your preferences a little later. The second piece is begin making a college list. Um, one thing to remember is you are not married to this list.

Um, a healthy college list will ebb and flow, um, throughout your time in high school all the way up until August before you begin to submit applications. Um, and so your college list, At the junior year stage, if you do not already have one, um, may be filled with some schools that you are interested in.

Maybe some schools you follow on social media or that you have family or friends that go to those institutions. Maybe your counselor has already been talking to you about colleges, or you’ve had some really neat visits at your high school. That may be the start of your college list, but know that you will continue to refine that list.

The third piece is evaluating your likelihood of acceptance. Um, and this is important because you want to fill your college list with institutions, um, that are a variety, um, of, uh, competitiveness. So you may be looking at, um, a handful of selective institutions, um, the majority of the institutions on your list.

Maybe target institutions for you and then you may have some institutions that you’re very likely to get into. And we’ll talk a little bit about what really defines a reach school, a target school, and a safety school. The fourth piece and I will say, these are not in any particular order but exploring your academic interest and major.

This is Really important. Some students know exactly what they want to major in. Some students have no idea. The important thing here is knowing what you’re interested in. You can get to this by really thinking about what courses you enjoy most, what types of assignments. Some institutions will allow you to apply undecided.

Many will allow you to apply undecided, but you still want to have some thread of interest in your application. And you want to make sure that you’re applying to schools that are going to cater to those interests. And then last, um, getting to know the college in informal ways. Um, so that might be talking to current students when you are on a campus tour.

Um, I already mentioned interacting on social media. Um, I think following colleges on Instagram and TikTok is a wonderful way, um, to understand. What students on those campuses, um, are interested in what they’re doing. Um, and also give you a sense of the admissions process.

So why is college fit important? Um, first, I just want to revive, rewind and talk about exactly what fit is. Um, I think you hear the word fit maybe from your high school counselor. Um, maybe if you’ve been reading blogs and coming to webinars like this one, where you’re like, We talk a lot about fit. Um, and it essentially means that you are choosing the college that is the best for you.

Um, so that may not be the highest ranked college or the college that your older sibling went to or that everybody at your school is applying to. It means that you are being very intentional about a right fit school for you. Um, college fit is important because it leads one to happy students. Um, have you ever talked to, um, maybe a neighbor or someone that graduated from your high school and they went off to college and they were really excited, um, when they left and a year in, um, they’re transferring or a year in, they’re talking about how unhappy they are.

Typically, this means that this college was not a fit for them to begin with. Um, the second piece is retention. So students who find a college that fits them well, they’re more likely to stay at that college and not transfer out. Um, they are also more likely to graduate from that institution. Um, and then last college is becoming more and more expensive.

And so we’re talking a lot about your return on investment. The best return on investment is a college that’s going to support you academically as well as socially. And so you’ll find that if you find a right fit college, you will also feel like your investment is far more meaningful, um, and you will feel more fulfillment when you actually leave that campus.

So there are a number of things that make a college a good fit. Um, this is just some of those elements. Um, so academic offerings, we talked a little bit about major already. Um, academic rigor, so this could mean is the college rigorous enough? Or is the college too rigorous? So you want to find somewhere that you’re going to do well.

There is no shame, um, in deciding to go to an institution that might be less rigorous or opting for a major that might be less rigorous. Um, if it’s something that genuinely is a good match for you, location is a big one. Um, are you someone that loves the warm weather? And there is no way that you’re going to a college in upstate New York.

Um, or are you someone that has really strong regional preferences? So maybe you live in California and you really want to stay on the west coast to be close to family. Um, or like myself, um, I had a strong preference of staying in Georgia for college. Um, so location is major. The size of the institution.

Um, size is often something that you actually have to try on. So when you go to a college visit at a small institution, a medium institution, a large institution, um, I can bet that you will have a feeling about the size. Sometimes the feeling is, oh my gosh, this place is really, really small. Um, I don’t know if it’s giving me, um, what I’m looking for.

You might also think, wow, this institution is huge. Um, the class that we walked into on a tour had 300 people and I can’t imagine myself being in this environment. Um, so size is certainly one of those things. Cost is a huge, um, part of this process. Um, and with cost, uh, I would also add, uh, scholarships, financial aid.

This is essentially knowing what role finances are going to play in your decision making process. This is often something that you are going to sit down and talk about with your parents, your family, your guardian. Um, and they will be able to work with you to make a plan about what finances look like for college.

Next, we have athletics. Are you an athlete? Is that part of your college search process? If so, that will really give you tunnel vision when you’re thinking about colleges because you’re looking for your specific sport. You may be looking for a division one institution as opposed to a division three. You may be interested in specific conferences.

So that might be something that comes into play. Um, clubs and organizations. So does the institution have clubs or organizations that fit you? Um, I will say most institutions have a variety of clubs. Um, so you’re likely to find something that is a fit for you at any school that you’re interested in. And the last one is just that gut feeling of stepping on a campus and thinking, wow, I really like this place or Oh, my gosh, I hate this place.

Um, and we hear both of those reactions from students all the time, and they may not even be able to pinpoint exactly what it is about the campus that is causing such a strong reaction. Um, but you trust your gut when you feel this way. Um, and this is why we always encourage students to visit, uh, campuses that you’re interested in.

visit multiple campuses so that you have some reference for what college campuses look like, what they feel like.

So I like to describe the college search process and finding the right fit as both a art As well as a science. Um, so there are, um, kind of very specific black and white things that you want to know about a potential institution. Um, so academic profile, this will give you an insight into how likely you are to be accepted.

If you’re in the range of their academic profile. Um, acceptance rate also does that. Um, you may be a student that is, um, looking at schools that have low acceptance rates. Um, that might be something that is important to you, or you might be a student who’s not interested in that. The institutions test optional policy, that is incredibly important now.

Um, we’re seeing more and more institutions returning. To requiring standardized test scores. Um, and so for this piece, you really want to make sure that the policy at the college you’re applying for aligns with what your testing plans are. So are you choosing to take the test? Have you already taken the SAT or the ACT and you did not do well on it?

You know, it’s not for you. Then that is going to change the types of schools you’re looking at. Um, again, cost of attendance. Um, and what financial aid looks like, um, maybe the percentage of students that stay between the first year and the second year, um, maybe the, uh, four year or six year graduation rate might be of interest to you.

And then there’s all kinds of data around career outcomes that are really interesting. Um, maybe you’re a pre med student and you’re interested in the medical school. Acceptance rate of an institution. Um, maybe you are interested in the median salary, um, for new graduates. Um, these are all, um, very quantitative things that can help you discover if the institution is right for you.

Um, so here is the art or, um, kind of the, the heart factors, the gut feelings about an institution, um, mission and values. So I think, um, families and students often gloss over mission and value statements, um, but oftentimes this is an institution telling you exactly what is important to them. Um, it is often, um, Something that guides their admissions committee review.

And so the mission and values of an institution, this statement is often in the about section on the website can give you some insight into if you have value alignment with the colleges you’re interested in. Belonging. Um, this could be just a feeling, um, or it could be offices that are on campus, um, that are going to provide you with support services, um, that make you feel like you belong.

Um, maybe it is organizations that make you feel like you belong. Maybe it is policy at the institution. Um, but belonging is a huge part of college students being happy. And the third one is safety. Um, this is another piece. Similar to belonging. So do you feel safe on that campus? Um, this does not necessarily get into what crime looks like on the campus, but it’s all about how you feel.

Is this a safe place for you? And then all of these things are typically tested during the campus visit. What is the impression that you received on a campus visit? Very rarely do students go on a campus tour. Um, Find out that they don’t love the campus on the campus tour and then change their mind later.

It doesn’t happen much. Um, what happens a lot though, is that a school, a student is gung ho about a school. They step on their campus and all of a sudden they think, Oh, this is not what I thought, or this is not the school for me. So really trust your campus visit impression. Um, because after all, this is likely going to be your home of sorts for the next four years.

Okay, thank you so much for all this information, Chelsea. We’re going to take a quick break to open up another poll to figure out where all of you are at in the college application process. If you’re a parent, just answer to the best of your ability based on where you think your student is. So, uh, while you all answer that question, I’m curious, Chelsea, What are you planning on having for dinner tonight?

Or what did you already have for dinner? I already had dinner, um, and I had Cava. This is not a sponsored Cava post, but it’s my new favorite thing to eat. Nice. Okay. So looking at the responses now, it seems like the vast majority of you are very early in the process. We’ve got 25 percent who have not started at all.

And about 62 percent who are at the right exact time, uh, saying that they’re researching school. So this is the perfect session for you to be watching if you’re in that. Okay, handing it back to you, Chelsea. Thanks, Lydia. Um, so we’ve talked about some of the factors that go into finding the right fit. So how do you build a smart college list?

The first piece is start early. You do not begin building your college list a month before applications are due. Um, all of the juniors and their families that are on this webinar tonight, junior year is the perfect time. Um, it gives you, um, enough time. To kind of plan and strategize before applications open, but you have enough of your high school career behind you to really have some perspective about you as a student as well as your interests.

So starting early is great. Um, even before the junior year, you can begin starting as early as ninth or 10th grade. Um, but understand that list is going to change. The second piece is doing your research. Um, this is an example of doing your research, being on this webinar tonight. Um, but you also want to do your research about specific schools, um, that are going to find their way to your college list.

The third one is being realistic. This is so, so important. Um, there are so many great resources out here, um, for college admissions. College admissions offices are putting out a lot of information, far more information, that was available when I was going through this process many years ago. And so you should really take advantage of the information that you have and use it to be realistic about this process.

Your college list is not meant to be your dream list. It’s not, um, something that is fully aspirational. It has to be practical. Um, if your list is not realistic, you are likely looking at a lot of disappointment, um, around decision release time. It’s gotta be realistic. And we’ll talk about kind of what that breakdown is.

Listen to trusted CollegeAdvisors and counselors, and I want to put an emphasis on trusted. There are so many scenarios and reasons why you may not have access to a counselor that is able to give you great advice. About your college list. Um, maybe you’re at a large public institution and your counselors have many, many, um, students in their caseload.

Um, so if you have a trusted CollegeAdvisor, um, whether they’re at CollegeAdvisor, um, or elsewhere, or they’re your high school counselor. Um, they usually know what they’re talking about. So you want to listen to these people as they’re giving you guidance. Um, absolutely push back when necessary. Um, or if you want to ask questions and understand more, um, but if the data supports something that a college counselor or advisor is trying to tell you, um, you want to believe the data and then finally, um, looking beyond rankings.

If you only focus on rankings, you are likely to have a lopsided college list, um, an unrealistic college list, a college list that is not smart or strategic. And so you want to look beyond the 15 or so schools that you hear about all the time, um, and really look into, uh, what schools are an authentic fit for you.

There are thousands of For your institutions in the U. S. And even more abroad. Um, it is so important to keep an open mind during this process about the schools that might make your list.

Okay, so we talked a little bit about likely target and reach schools. Let’s define what they are. So, um, the first one is a reach school, and I think this is often a difficult concept for some students to, um, understand, um, because it can feel subjective, right? Like, if you know you’re a great student, student.

Um, you are academically sound. Um, you may feel that a reach school is absolutely within, um, the bounds of something you would be competitive for. Um, and I do not mean to, um, stifle that confidence. That is great. But we call a reach school, um, any school that fits a number of characteristics. So.

Independent of who you are as a student, a REACH school is any school in the top 50. Um, you can always refer to, um, the latest rankings, um, on U. S. News World and Report. Um, they do change each year, um, but any school in the top 50 for U. S. institutions is a reach. One of the reasons for that is they typically have an admit rate that is below 20%.

Um, and when you think about these institutions receiving tens of thousands of applications, some of them upwards of a hundred thousand applications. If they’re only admitting five to seven percent, um, some as low as three, four percent, they are turning away far more good students than they are admitting.

Um, and so that means the odds, the numbers are stacked against anyone that’s applying to them, no matter how great of a student they are. So you want to categorize these schools as reaches. By definition, they’re very selective. Um, in any, Any school, if you look at profiles, any school is also a reach if it has an admit profile slightly above yours.

Um, and I’ll talk a little bit about admitted student profiles shortly. Um, but reach is, um, students that, or schools that fall in certain categories, but there is also an individual component. If you compare your high school GPA to their admitted student profile, um, that can also tell you if a school is a reach or not.

Target schools. Um, this one is a bit more black and white. A target school is a school that matches your academic profile. Um, target schools typically are going to have an admit rate above that 25%, um, which 25 percent and 30 percent is still a selective institution. Um, but a target school will say that based on your academic profile, um, You have a chance or a good chance at getting into that institution.

Um, Individually, this means that you feel fairly confident based on your grades, your transcript, your rigor, test scores, leadership that you can get in. And again, this is not a blind measure of confidence. This is based on what you know about the school. You feel confident, um, about how you step up against the applicant pool.

And then last we have likely, um, or previously, uh, this would be called a safety school. Um, and essentially means it is likely that you will get into this institution. Um, it’s a school where you are right at the profile or above, um, you’re relatively confident of acceptance. And then oftentimes these are also schools with a higher acceptance rate.

Typically over 50%.

So when you look at your school list, how many of these institutions, um, should you have and in what categories? So, um, students typically are applying to 10 to 12 schools. That number has gotten larger and larger over time, um, which is also kind of driving these lower acceptance rates and these high numbers of applications.

Um, but 10 to 12 institutions, you can absolutely put fewer than that on your college list, but we typically see 10 to 12. You want to have a mix, so only a couple of reaches. Three, if you have 12 schools, let’s call it two or three that fall in the reach category, mostly targets. So we’re not asking you to underestimate your qualifications because most of your list should be institutions that you have a fighting chance at getting into, but that are competitive based on your credentials.

And then you want to have a few likely schools. Again, this might be two or three schools that you are pretty confident that you would be accepted to. This allows you to compare multiple options after you receive an admissions decision. What you don’t want is that you submit 10 applications and when admissions decisions are released, you are only accepted to one of those schools or two of those schools.

This means that your list was not balanced enough because if you’re only accepted to one institution, you don’t really have a choice at that point, and you still want to have a choice because you need to compare your financial aid or scholarship offers. You want to think about all the factors that I shared earlier that are incredibly important.

And so that starts by building a smart and strategic list. So how do you know if you, um, fit into the reach target or likely school category? Um, this is based on what institutions call the academic profile. Um, mostly all institutions publish an academic profile each year, and it is based on the admitted students in the previous class.

So, for example, right now, institutions will be publishing a fall 2023 admitted student GPA range and test score range this fall. So, around September, October, you’ll see a fall 2024 academic profile again, these change each year. So it’s super important to review them each year, but it is something that you can easily search on a website.

So, um. After you leave this webinar, I encourage you to think of the schools that you’re already interested in. A quick Google skirts, a quick Google search. Duke University academic profile, Emory University academic profile, University of Florida, so on and so forth. This will allow you to see what types of credentials admitted students have had the previous year.

And then once you know that information, you want to compare it to your own academic profile.

So one of the best ways I think to learn more about colleges and if they are a right fit is connecting with current students. Student perspective and a student lens, um, is something that’s can be very valuable to your decision making process, um, and connecting with current students that are not your tour guide.

So, um, as admissions folks, we love our campus tour guides, but let’s be clear. They are trained on what to say. Sometimes this is a part time job for students and so they. Are only able to share certain things as part of their tour, having a casual conversation with a student and the calf, um, might provide you with something authentic, um, also talking to current students gives you the most up to date perspective.

Um, so there may be something going on on campus that is 6 months old, or just happen only a current student is going to be able to give you the level of perspective, um, that you might need to really understand that issue.

So last advice, um, for really maximizing the perfect college fit, um, the first one is looking beyond college rankings, opening your mind up to all of the amazing institutions, um, thousands of four year accredited institutions in this area. country that might be a good option for you. Remember that this is an art and a science.

Do not get so caught up on the science that you are not thinking about what your preferences are, how you feel about an institution, and what that campus visit looks like. You want to visit multiple campuses. You must have something to compare. Um, that is one of the best ways to kind of try on a fit, um, is comparing College A to College B to College C.

So you want to get on those campuses. And then lastly, discover what role finances will play. You do not want to have this conversation for the first time in March of your senior year. By that time, it may be too late. So before you start the application process, you want to talk about the financial strategy.

Um, are you looking for schools that meet full demonstrated need? Are you seeking out some of the most prestigious scholarships, um, in those institutions? Does your family have a number that they are willing to pay out of pocket, but they don’t want to go over that number. Um, no matter what your financial situation is, this conversation is super important, um, to craft a realistic college list.

Okay, thank you so much, Chelsea. So that’s the end of our presentation portion of the webinar. I hope that you all found this information helpful, and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. So now we’re going to move on to the live Q& A. I’m going to read through some of the questions that you all submitted.

submitted, and then Chelsea and I will go over them. As a heads up, if your Q& A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page. So we’ll go ahead and jump in with our first question. Which is, can you still gain insight about a campus if you visit during the summer time, or is it best to do your college trips during the school year?

Yeah, so one thing about college visits, they take a lot of time and resources. And sometimes you may have a visit that is like, scheduled for what colleges might describe as not the most optimal time to see their college. But if that is the only time that you can go, you can still make the most of a summer visit.

Um, you will likely still receive the same information in an information session. You will likely still receive the same exact tour. What you may be missing is observing campus in its natural state. So tons of students on campuses, classes going on, events. So you may miss some of that. Um, if you’re not able to get back to that campus for a second time, social media might be your best friend to really understand student life and what the campus looks like when it is at its most lively.

Great. Another question we’ve got is what is the best way to connect with current students on a campus? So, um, some institutions have, um, student ambassador organizations. Um, you may have an opportunity to reach out to student ambassadors directly, either through the school’s website, um, or through, um, social media.

Um, I also would encourage you to, um, to strike up a conversation if you’re on a campus. Um, typically, students are more than willing to do that. To talk to prospective students about their experience. Maybe you walk into the building of the major that you’re interested in and strike up a conversation.

There can be these really informal ways, or it could be a more formal way. I think reaching out on social media seems really approachable, particularly for this generation. So if a college does a, um, Instagram takeover with a student and you think they’re doing some really interesting things, um, maybe try reaching out to that student on their personal Instagram, um, or coordinate, connecting with them, um, on the live to learn more.

Great. And in a similar vein to that, someone was asking about shadow programs. How common are those on college campuses and how should you usually go about getting that opportunity? Great. Yeah, it really depends on the institution. Um, I would say they’re not as common as folks would probably like. Um, I typically see formal shadow programs as part of larger visit programs.

So you may look into open houses on the campuses that you’re in. Um, maybe they have a fly in program. Um, but just a daily, like coming for a campus tour and wanting to set up a shadow that is probably going to be a D I Y opportunity. So, try reaching out to the department that you’re interested in and seeing if they can connect you with the current student.

Um, again, you can try social media, talking to your network. Do they have any, um, does your network have any students that might attend the school and reach out to them as well? Most of the time when I hear about students shadowing, it’s through some sort of personal connection or networking. Good to know.

So another question we’ve got is what is the maximum number of schools that you would recommend any senior applied to in a school year? Um, I would say that number is, 12 for me. Um, and really it’s 10. Um, I think the, a student that should apply to more schools, um, I encourage you to really interrogate.

Why you’re applying to those schools. If you find yourself just adding to your list to add to your list, that is not helpful. Oftentimes, it would be better to refine the schools that you already have than to add schools that you may or may not be interested in.

So, um, in that same kind of vein, another student was asking. How would you recommend students break down the ratio between how many target reach and safety schools that they apply to? Is, is there a wrong amount to apply to? Is it just a minimum of X amount for safety schools so you know you can at least get into one?

Or is there specific ratios? So, I think the ratio can look different depending on what your specific academic profile is, um, a general ratio that I would like to see is two, no more than three reach schools, um, three safety schools and the rest target, um, You may have a college list that has no reach schools and only targets and a few safeties.

It really depends on the person. There’s not a specific formula. I will say there are though some wrong formulas or wrong ratios. If you find that your list is nine reach schools and two targets, That is not setting you up for success. Sounds really good to say that you’ve applied to all the IVs and the top 10 institutions in the U.

S. Um, but that is typically not going to be, um, a list that sets you up for success later. Um, if you have IVs or highly selective institutions on your list, Wonderful. But condense it down. Think about the schools that are really going to make sense for you to apply to and do not waste applications on schools that are not going to be a good fit or that you would not be competitive for.

Got it. So another question that we’ve got is asking basically, um, Can you provide an example of how we can compare our own academic profile with the averages of a school to determine what colleges would fall in the safety target or reach school, or should we just base it on admissions percentages? So you don’t want to just base it on, um, acceptance rates.

And one of the reasons for that is the more selective an institution is, the more their applicant pool is competitive. So, um, let’s use a highly selective college like a Yale. Um, The majority of students that apply to Yale are going to be strong students because they’ve self selected into applying to an institution.

That’s very selective. Um, so you don’t want to just use the acceptance, right? You want to, um, find out a couple of things. 1, you want to find out your unweighted GPA. You want to find out your weighted GPA. I like to have students really understand how their rigor stacks up at their institution. So how many AP, honors, IB, dual enrollment courses have you taken?

How many are offered at your school? Those are going to be the basic kind of elements of assessing your academic strengths. And then when you go over to the college, you want to find out their middle 50 percent going to be a range. And essentially, this is telling you, um, 50 percent of students who were admitted were somewhere in this range.

25 percent of those students got in with something under the bottom number of the range. 25 percent of the students got in with something over. And so the middle 50 percent gives you, um, kind of the lower GPAs that were competitive up to the higher GPAs that were competitive. And then you go back to your unweighted or your weighted.

depending on what the college is using and see where you fall. If you are in the middle 50%, um, that is a good indicator that you, it may be a target school for you. If you were in that top 25%, um, it may still be a target, um, depending on the selectivity, but you may have some additional confidence that you will be competitive.

And if you are below that 50%, then you really want to. Think about is this potentially a reach for you? Um, or does it belong somewhere else on your list? Got it. So another question that we’ve got is basically asking, um, what is, what are some things that you should definitely consider when making a college list?

Factors that should definitely matter to a student. And what are some factors that you’ve noticed students sometimes find important? But don’t actually have that much of an impact on actual student satisfaction or experience when they get there. Um, I think some of the like bells and whistles that attract students to college campuses um, like Really amazing residence halls or a water slide Like all of that stuff is really cool and impressive and I would have liked to go to an institution that had a water slide But in the larger scheme of things That is not what is, um, creating a good environment for a student.

It’s not what is setting them up for success as, um, after they graduate. Um, so I would try not to be distracted by the shiny things. and focus more like on the nuts and bolts of the experience. Um, like I said, location, size, so important, um, institutional type, uh, would you find yourself, um, best served at a large state flagship, um, a small private, a liberal arts institution.

These are kind of umbrella terms that we use to describe institutions, um, but they have a lot of kind of clues to the type of experience. Experience that you will have. Um, so those are the things that I think. are most valuable. Um, and they’re just like really simple. Do I want to live here for the next four years?

Do I want to study here for the next four years?

That makes sense. We have one person asking, how can we best assess factors like the quality of instruction at a college or the financial aid packages that they offer? Yeah, so, um, for quality of instruction, there’s a couple ways. Um, I’ve talked a little bit about not paying attention to rankings too much in this presentation.

Um, and I think I say that often because, you know, People look for the number, the rankings, and it stops there when there’s actually so much amazing information about how these colleges are ranked. Um, if you go to U. S. News and World Report, and look up an institution, It will tell you their ranking, but it will also tell you all of these kind of nuanced things that went into that ranking.

So as far as quality of instruction, you’ll find things like the student to teacher ratio, um, the average class size, you’ll find how many faculty members have a PhD, how many courses are taught by TAs. You’ll also find kind of a Peer rating. So what are peers of this institution saying about that institution?

That’s typically a really valuable marker. Um, so those kind of, um, Specific data points are helpful. Um, and then again, just having that informal conversation, um, talking to students. Um, I don’t know if right. My professor is still out there. Um, it was super popular. Um, I graduated college a very long time ago, but it was super popular when I was in college.

Um. I don’t know how much is used now, um, but that is a public, like, Google reviews for college professors. Um, I wouldn’t say that it would give you, um, a holistic view of, um, the quality of instruction, um, but maybe you’re interested very specifically in, um, how are architecture faculty at the school rated?

What are students saying about them? Um, it could be helpful for some of those, um, more nuanced things. Um, and then, Lydia, what was the second piece of that question, quality of instruction and, uh, how good the financial aid packages are? Yes. Um, so you can interact with the financial aid office, um, as a prospective student, uh, colleges will often tell you, um, stats like how many students receive financial aid.

Um, what is the average financial aid package? Um, I think a really good question is if you’re a student that, you know, you have financial need asking a college, do you meet? Full demonstrated need, which means if I show you that I cannot afford to come to this institution, will you make it affordable for me by meeting my need and closing that gap?

Um, and if they say that they don’t meet full financial need, what percentage of need do you need? So those are kind of some questions that can begin. to kind of chop down at that. Um, a lot of institutions will also have, um, information about their merit scholarships readily available. Um, we have a lot of institutions that are announcing no loan financial aid packages.

So it means that if you get a financial aid award letter, um, loans is not going to be a part of that award letter. Um, they are going to put things like scholarships, grants, um, work study, et cetera. Um, and so I think with college becoming more and more expensive, um, colleges are really having to, one, prove their value, um, but to be really transparent about what the financial piece looks like earlier on in the process.

Um, we also have a question about. Getting a feel of a school if you’re not able to be there in person. So how effective are virtual tool tours or, um, like zoom sessions where they do a webinar about the values of the school? Are those good ways to determine if a school is a good fit or is it best to be on campus?

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s best to be on campus, but we know that every student cannot make it to every campus. Um, and so institutions are doing their best to try and provide information and provide an experience, even if you can’t come to campus. Um, so virtual info sessions. Absolutely. Those are great. Um, they’re often the exact same information session that is given on campus.

Um, except for you get to watch it in the comfort of your home. Um, virtual tours are also really great. Some institutions even have narration. So you’ll, um, have like a 3D tour guide that’s talking you through each stops. That is really helpful. Some institutions have really interactive campus maps that you’re able to follow.

Um, and then again, social media, um, it is such a good way to, um, get to know students at that campus. Um, and if I had to say which one of those three things. A virtual info session, a virtual tour or social media would give you the most of like the feeling. Um, I would say social media can begin to give you a feeling about a campus.

And speaking of social media, how much weight should students give to Reddit threads or YouTube videos from students? Are those sometimes suss pools where the information isn’t accurate, or are those actually good places to look to find a real perspective on what it’s like to go to a school? Um, so I think there can be good information, um, on YouTube.

Um, maybe Reddit. Um, there, there could be good information there, but I, I think the same way, um, if you are. Doing anything and looking at the reviews. You want to keep a healthy amount of skepticism. Um, if you are seeing something very very specific over and over and over Okay, this might be something that you investigate a little bit more Um, but if it feels random and there’s no kind of thread of this complaint Um that I may not give it as much attention as the content creator Or the subscriber might be giving it.

Um, I will say, like, for you to there are influencers that work for these colleges or that connect with these colleges that are doing dorm tours and a day in the life. So get ready with me. All of that stuff can be valuable. Um, and I think for this generation, it’s really like meeting students where they already are.

Um, so I don’t want to discount those types of resources, but as always, just be skeptical. That makes sense. We’re going to take a quick break from the Q and A, but we are not done. Uh, just to remind you all that. CollegeAdvisor is here to support you. We have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts who are ready to help you and your family navigate the college admissions process and one on one advising sessions.

We’ve already helped over 6, 000 clients in their college journeys. And after analyzing our 2021 to 2023 data, we found that CollegeAdvisor students are 3. 6 times more likely to get into Stanford, 4. 1 times more likely to get into Vanderbilt, and 2. 7 times more likely to get into Harvard. Increase your odds and take the next step in your college admissions journey by signing up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session today.

with an admissions specialist on our team using the QR code that you see on the screen. During this meeting, you’ll receive a preliminary assessment of your academic profile along with some initial recommendations. And at the end, you’ll also learn more about the premium packages that we offer that pair you with an expert who can support you in building your college list, editing your essays, and much, much more.

So we’re going to get back into the Q& A, but that QR code will still be there. If you do have specific questions, like What if my GPA is this or my SAT score is that? Definitely encourage you to check out that QR code that’s linked here. So Chelsea, another question that we’ve got is what are some good strategies that a student could use to find a school that’s comparable to their dream school after they find out that their dream school is too expensive or too difficult to get into?

Oh, you’re muted. That’s such a good question. Um, I would go back to Institutional types and locations. Um, so is dream school a school with 40, 000 undergraduate students, D1 athletics, um, a super lively, um, kind of culture, um, around, um, student life, maybe fraternity and sorority life. So really kind of picking, Apart what made this institution your dream school and looking for other institutions that might fit the bill.

Um, if academics were the driver, if they’re taught institution for your major researching other schools, um, that are, um, doing good work in that specific major and are preparing students. Well, location is another 1, if it’s in a specific city or region, looking at other institutions there. Um, so all of the.

All of the things that we, we talked about, um, detaching the name of the institution from all of those factors that make it what it is and seeing where you can find those same qualities in other colleges. Makes sense. Uh, we’ve got another person asking, um, how do you choose a school or determine what is a target?

match or reach, um, or target safety or reach. If you’re applying to schools, more so based on your athletic ability. Like you’re expecting to be recruited rather than expecting to be admitted based primarily on your academic performance, should your determination on your list of goals. Yeah, that’s a good question.

Um, so for athletics, you are navigating this process kind of in two lanes. You are, um, navigating the athletic side. So you are, um, uploading highlight reels online. You’re connecting with coaches. You’re sending videos to coaches, going to camps, but you’re also, um, you know, Taking your SAT or your ACT and focusing on your grades, um, and thinking about ways that you can be involved outside of your sport.

Um, and when you’re thinking about that academic profile, um, there may be a slight slip. Um, between the regular academic profile for a student and athletics. Um, but generally speaking, the more selective the institution, the more they’re going to be requiring from you academically as an athlete. So, if you were looking at an institution that is very selective.

And has a high academic profile, you are going to have to be very, very close to that. If you are looking at an institution that’s less selective, then they may be requiring less from you than that more selective institution. Um, so I would still use the same, um, kind of framework. The better you are academically, the more opportunities that are going to be available for you as an athlete.

It is just like the cherry on top. Um, so you want to make sure that you’re working both ankles. Got it. So, um, another question, and this one is a little bit different, but how should a student consider test scores, uh, with the class profile if the school is test optional? Should that affect the way that they order or sort their schools, or should they just base it only on GPA in that case?

Yeah, really good question. Um, so one thing to remember, um, when you see a test score average for a school that’s test optional, they are only reporting the average test scores for students that submitted. And so what that means is that that average is likely to be inflated or higher because these are the people who wanted you to see their scores.

Um, so typically, They would’ve done better. Um, so you want to look at that. Um, if you are a test taker, you’re choosing to take the test, you do want to be somewhere near that score. Um, but if you choose not to take the test, um, know that that average, um, is for people that felt confident in their test scores.

Um, a follow up question for institutions are, um, how many of your students submit test scores? And what is the acceptance rate of, um, scored submitters versus non submitters? Um, similar to the example that I talked about, um, about Yale and kind of really competitive students self selecting into their applicant pool, the more competitive an institution is, the more students are going to feel like they have to take the test, whether The institution is telling them to take it or not.

Um, and so you’ll find some schools that are test optional, but upwards 55 percent of their students, their applicants are submitting test scores, and that is likely because their applicants are feeling like I need to do everything possible. In order to be competitive, because this is such a selective institution.

Um, and so you want to find out what’s the landscape that you’re operating in. And so, even though a school is saying that they’re test optional, you do want to believe them, but what is the applicant behavior? Because if everybody’s still submitting test scores, you do want to be mindful of how that plays out in the admissions review process.

All right. Um, so another thing is. that someone was asking is, should a student take the initiative to reach out to admissions officers to learn more about a school? Can that increase chances of potentially being considered for admittance down the line? Is it a good idea or is that too pushy? No, like you really can’t be too pushy in, in this space.

Um, reaching out to admissions counselors, um, is part of what admissions counselors are there for. They’re recruiting, they’re reading applicants, but they’re also Your dedicated counselor. Um, so you should absolutely reach out and introduce yourself. Maybe share some information. Um, you don’t want to just reach out for nothing and you don’t want to reach out excessively, um, but reaching out when it makes sense.

Hey, I just wanted to share that. I submitted my application, or I have a. Follow up question about my major. Um, where can I find this information on the website? Like, really meaningful questions, um, can show interest. Um, also offices of admissions, um, have very sophisticated, um. what we call CRMs. Um, so the same way, um, Amazon might know all of the things that you’re doing and how you interact interact with the app admissions offices also keep that information.

So not only are they tracking, um, where, when you visited campus, they may be tracking how many emails they sent to you that were open, how many times you visited their website. Um, and so whether a school, um, uses demonstrated interest or not, they are able to see how interested you are in an institution by your behavior.

Got it. And the last question that we have for tonight is what are some of the biggest pitfalls or mistakes that you see students make when determining their college list or deciding their college based on the ones that they are accepted to? Um, so for the college list, I would say, um, worrying about what other people think.

Um, and that could be, um, your peers at your school. Um, you know, maybe you’re not sure. You didn’t get accepted to the institutions that they got accepted to and you feel like no one’s ever heard of the school that you went to. Um, I think that could be a pitfall because it can allow you to miss out on some really good institutions.

Um, I feel like with selecting the institution, you gotta get on campus. Um, I do not recommend that a student commit to a school that they’ve never visited. Um, and so you want to have at least one visit experience, um, before you actually enroll. Great advice. Okay, so we’re gonna go ahead and wrap up. Thank you so much, Chelsea, for giving us an amazing presentation and for sharing all of your wonderful insight.

We really appreciate it. And thank you everyone for coming out tonight. This is our closing. calendar for our March webinar. Um, and that is the end of our session, navigating the college search, finding the right fit for you. And we hope that we see you again at one of our webinars that we have planned for the rest of the month.

I hope all of you enjoy the rest of your evening. Good night.