Haley: Building your college list | TheUnion.com

Haley: Building your college list

Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

Believe it or not, high school seniors can begin applying to colleges as early as this month. Both the Common Application (private) and the University of California (public) applications are now open.

These early application dates leave many students scrambling to finalize their college lists.

What constitutes a good college list? I recommend students have a mixture of public and private colleges. The list should also contain “likely schools,” as well as “challenge schools.”

Never apply to a college where, even if accepted, you would not attend.

How do you know if a college is one where you will likely get in? Taking a look at the college’s admitted student profile from last year will give you a clue.

You can find this information on most school’s website. For example, at California State University, Chico the average admitted GPA was 3.4 and the average SAT (M/CR) was 1,058.

If your GPA and test scores were at or above this, then you can expect this to be a likely college for you to get into.

Students should also apply to some schools where it may be a challenge to get in. Colleges admit students who they feel can contribute to their schools in a positive way, even if they have lower GPA’s and test scores.

This contribution can be in athletics, the arts, competitive debate, or being a community contributor. A strong college essay and strong letters of recommendation help as well.

Some students put only the most highly ranked, most selective, colleges on their list. Big mistake. Colleges such as Stanford, Yale, and Harvard accept less then 10 percent of their applicants.

Many valedictorians and students with near perfect test scores never get into these schools. This is not a reflection of the qualified candidate, but rather the competitiveness of the school.

Students with low college admissions test scores should check out the website http://www.fairtest.org. Many colleges, and the list is growing, are now test optional.

Students would be wise to check out the colleges in the Western Undergraduate Exchange that give reductions in tuition to students in neighboring western states. Look carefully at the list and note any GPA or test score requirements.

I also advise students to stay away from the idea that there is only one “dream school” for them.

This often leads to disappointment and heartache. Many students, who did not get into their first choice school find that their second or third choice was actually their “dream school” after all.

The cost of applying to college can add up when you pay $70 per application. The good news is that the Common Application, the UC application and the CSU application all have fee waivers imbedded in the application. If you qualify, you can submit four colleges per fee waiver.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor, who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.

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