When you think about the “Perfect College” what comes to mind? Bucolic hills, palm trees, or urban energy? Classes with 12 students or with 120? Going to a football game, a political debate, an art show – all of the above? How do you know which college is perfect? You need to know what is important to YOU.
Here are the Top 10 factors to consider for your “Perfect” college:
- Academics: If you know your major, that should be a requirement. But what about special programs such as honors, study abroad, co-ops or senior projects? Also consider the learning environment. Is the campus on semesters, quarters, or offer a May or January term? How do you learn best?
- Climate: Think about what climate you will want to live in for at least three seasons of the year while at college. If you have never lived through winter in New England, think about how you will feel about months of snow, rain and later a very muddy spring. Or visa versa, how will a lot of heat and humidity feel for days on end. Will you melt? Believe it or not, climate can impact your experience.
- Size: Think about what size college you would like to attend. Attending a school with 20,000 undergrads is not for everyone! What is your comfort zone?
- Location: Think carefully about what type of area are looking for. Can you live without a movie theater in town? Do you need open spaces and access to nature? How about a variety of restaurants?
- Financial Aid: Finances can make or break a decision. Be sure to discuss this with your parents before you fall in love with a specific college. (Take the College Affordability Survey in GuidedPath to see what your family contribution would be.)
- Campus Activities: Does it need a sports team? Or orchestra? Clubs, music, outdoor activities. Think about how you want to spend your time when not in class.
- School Spirit: Do you want to attend a school with lots of school spirit? Or does your style lean more toward favoring a school with a school spirit focused on weekend music or club activities.
- Social Scene: What is fun to do with your friends? Go to a big concert in the city, or hang out with friends informally in cafes, sipping lattes? How important is having a greek life (sororities or fraternities) to you? What social life will be most comfortable for you?
- Student Body: When you walk on campus, do you feel you fit in? Are you seeking diversity in the student body? Do you want a student body that is conservative, liberal or a mix of everything?
- Housing: Where will you live? What are the dorms like? How are the bathrooms set up? Co-ed or single sex dorms?
Using the Design a College Survey in GuidedPath will help you identify what is most important to you and your family in a college. Find the Design a College Survey in GuidedPath Edge:
- log into your account
- Click on the SURVEYS tab
- Select Design A College from the drop-down menu
Use the College Match Survey along with the Design a College Survey to get the most complete picture of your perfect college.
Do you know the entire name of the PSAT test? It is officially the PSAT/ NMSQT test. “NMSQT” stands for “National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test”. The only time you can be considered for the National Merit Scholarship is during your junior year. Taking the PSAT is the only way to be considered.
Taking the PSAT by grade level
- Freshman year– It is your first opportunity to take a college prep standardized test. Check to see if your school allows freshmen to take the PSAT/NMSQT. The school may want you to take the new PSAT 9 in the fall or the spring.
- Sophomore year– Take it more seriously- this is the last time you can take this test and not have it sent to the colleges. You may be taking the new PSAT 10 in fall or spring.
- Junior year– Game time! Prepare just as you have for the SAT test. Do your best on this PSAT/NMSQT test. You will have colleges knocking at your door if you do!
Update your testing schedule in GuidedPath with the PSAT for the fall. Select the green “Add a Test Not Found in the Table” button and find PSAT. Check with your counselor for registration and test dates.
If you are a junior, you should plan to take the PSAT test in October. It’s offered at your school and you should check with your school counselor for the exact date, cost, and registration process. For juniors, the PSAT is the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). More to come on the NMSQT in a later email.
Sophomores may also take the PSAT. You will have to take the PSAT again as a junior to be considered for the National Merit Scholarship. However, it’s not bad to practice more than once in a low-stakes setting. Just know that the PSAT will not be used by colleges for admission purposes.
You might consider taking the actual SAT or ACT this fall. Taking the tests does cost time and money so discuss whether you want to take a test in the fall or wait. You’ll do better on the math section of either test if you’ve already completed Geometry and most of Algebra II. If you decide to take the test in the fall, it’s not too early to register for SAT or ACT test.
Don’t stress! Keep ahead of the game by adding your tests to GuidedPath Testing schedule. GuidedPath also has all the ACT and SAT test dates, including subject test dates, for you to choose from. Test requirements, such as SAT subject tests, are listed as part of the College Information.
You will receive automatic reminders of registration dates and upcoming tests. Your parents can be included in the automatic reminders too – so they know you are on staying on top of registration dates and test dates.
How competitive for admissions will you be? This is based on several factors. Some factors are more measurable in the college applications process than others. The easily measured factors include:
- Your GPA
- Your tests scores on ACT, AP, SAT or Subject tests
Less measurable, but equally important in your college application process are:
- How hard you challenged yourself in your course schedule
- Activities you were involved in during high school
- Contributions you made to your community
- Your love of learning
- Your life’s experiences
Using Measurable Factors
Use the measurable factors to do a final check of your college list. Using My Chances, make sure you have a balance in your college list. You need colleges in the red, yellow and green zone of My Chances in your GuidedPath account.
What puts a school in your RED zone?
- your test scores are lower than the average scores at the college
- the college has a low acceptance rate (typically under 20%)
What puts a school in your YELLOW zone?
- your test scores are in the mid 50% range, along with most other students
- the college has an acceptance rate of 20-60%
What puts a school in your GREEN zone?
- your test scores are in the top 25% of students
- the college has acceptance rates of 60-100%
How many schools should you have in each zone?
- 1-3 in the RED zone. These are your DREAM or REACH colleges. This is where immeasurable factors can be very influential.
- 2-5 in the YELLOW zone. These are your EXPECTED or TARGET colleges. A majority of your college list should be in this zone. It is your sweet spot for college admissions.
- 1-4 in the GREEN zone. This is your FOR SURE or SAFETY colleges. These are very important especially for financial aid or merit scholarship potential.
Follow these steps to check your zones:
- Make sure your latest test scores are up to date in GuidedPath.
- Then view My Chances under My College.
- Change “Display All” to “My Colleges”.
- Count how many of your colleges are in the Red, Yellow and Green zones.
- Adjust your list if needed!