Competitive College Applications – Evaluating Your Chance of Getting In

application-processCreating compelling college applications, and therefore getting into college, is all about making a diverse list of prospective colleges you might want to attend, organizing your traits and academic qualities—in other words, knowing what sets you apart from other applicants—and applying to range of schools according to your chance of admission.

Creating your college list

This is the “easy” part — just compile a list of schools you want to go to. The list should include schools that you’re likely to be admitted into and ones that might be more of a long shot. In other words, colleges with the lowest acceptance rates as well as colleges with high acceptance rates. At this stage in the process you’re not worried about being accepting or what it takes to be a successful applicant, or even what the selection standards are. You’re simply creating a list of school you’d want to attend.

What this means for your money:

As a general rule, colleges that give merit aid (sometimes known as tuition discounts) award them to the top 20% of their applicants, meaning you’re more likely to get aid from a strong match or safety school than the other schools on your list.

How to use this list to improve your application:

The point of this list is to understand what kind of students each school is looking for, which will help you convince them that you are, in fact, that student. Weak matches and long shots, for example, may be unlikely to admit you based solely on your academic record (especially if you don’t meet their admissions standards), so you might consider focusing more on your personal achievements and everything you’ve done outside of the classroom—on your personal statement, for example. In other words, focusing specifically on what sets you apart from other applicants. That way you may still have a chance of being accepted. But keeping strong matches and matches on your list means you always have a backup plan.


Applications and Admissions