From 2000–2016, college admission rates increased from about 5.4 million to 20.5 million. Currently, there are over 3,000 4-year institutions in the United States. On top of that are the endless degree options available. So how do you decide which school to attend? And even before that, where should you send your application? Don’t be overwhelmed: be informed with these five steps.
Step 1: Determine Your Admissions Budget
Assess how much money you have to spend on admission fees. These include entrance exams (like the ACT and SAT), application fees, and campus visits. Remember, every school that you apply to will have those first two expenses at the bare minimum.
Before you pay for these fees, check to see if you qualify for waivers. Did you know that some students qualify for an SAT fee waiver or a college admissions application fee waiver?
Step 2: Consider the Specificity of Your Major
There are many colleges that offer business and English degrees. Few provide those rare majors, like marine biology and robotics engineering. What do you plan to do with the next 40–50 years of your life?
The answer to that question will determine which schools make the cut. If your answer was a popular degree that any school offers, then your options are broad. On the other hand, if you plan to specialize in a field that only a select few campuses in the nation offer, then apply to those schools first.
Step 3: Determine the Competitiveness of Your Intended Major
A popular major is a competitive major. The more competitive the major, the smaller the acceptance rate into that particular college. Some of the hottest majors today include business, psychology, and nursing.
A rule of thumb for those pursuing an in-demand field is to apply to several schools. This will increase your chances of acceptance. For example, if you’re a nursing major, instead of applying to the nursing school of your choice and no others, expand your options by sending 5–10 applications to schools likely to accept you.
Step 4: Ensure You’re Comfortable With Your Number
As stated in step 3, applying to more schools increases your acceptance odds. The total number of applications you decide to submit is up to you. Do your research and talk with admissions counselors to determine a reasonable number.
The more applications you fill out, the more acceptance letters you’ll likely receive – and the more money you’ll spend. The less applications you fill out, the less chance you have of receiving that many acceptance letters… but the more money you save.
The key is finding the correct number of applications to submit for your situation. The recommended amount is 5–8.
Step 5: Review Your Other Needs
Create a list of your college needs and wants. Do you have a set tuition budget? Do you prefer the smaller rural setting or the highly populated city life? Is a certain extra circular activity important to you, such as ROTC or football? Ask yourself what you cannot negotiate on and ensure those schools receive your application.