Deciding Where You'll Apply to College

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  • 0:02 Applying to College
  • 0:57 Narrowing the List
  • 3:11 Dream vs. Safety School
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Applying to college is both time-consuming and expensive, so you need to narrow down your college choices and figure out which ones to apply to. In this lesson, we'll look at some of the ways that you can do this.

Applying to College

Meredith is in high school and she can't wait to go to college in a couple of years. But she's also a bit overwhelmed and confused. What should she be doing? How can she get into college?

The college application process is the procedure whereby a student tries to get into a college. This usually involves several things, including filling out an application, writing an essay, submitting transcripts, getting letters of recommendation, and paying an application fee. That's a lot of things for Meredith to do!

Between the time that she has to spend on applications and the money she has to pay in application fees, Meredith realizes that she can't apply to every college that she's sort of interested in. She has to narrow the list a little bit. But how? Let's take a closer look at how Meredith can decide where to apply to college.

Narrowing the List

Meredith has a long list of colleges that she thinks she might want to attend. But she doesn't have the time or money to apply to all of them. So how should she narrow her list down to just a few?

The first thing Meredith must do is choose the number of colleges to apply to. This number will depend on her time and money constraints. Perhaps she only has time to fill out four applications. Or perhaps she has plenty of time, but can only afford to pay three application fees. Whatever the case, Meredith will decide how many colleges to apply to based on her individual situation.

After Meredith knows how many colleges she'll apply to, she will want to make a ranked list of the colleges she's interested in. Let's say that she can only afford to apply to three schools, but she has about 20 schools that she's interested in. She'll have to rank them her first choice, second choice, and so on until she has all 20 in order from best to worst choice. From there, Meredith can choose the colleges at the top of the list to apply to. For example, once Meredith has made her ranked list, she can choose the top three colleges on that list and apply to them.

But before she applies, Meredith should do a final needs check to make sure that the colleges she's applying to meet her needs. This might mean making sure that the three colleges she's chosen all offer the major she wants to study. Or maybe she knows that she wants to live in the dorms, so she should make sure that all the colleges have dorms. Perhaps she's concerned with career options and wants to make sure that each school has a good career center to support her. Whatever Meredith's individual needs are, she should make sure that the colleges she applies to meet those needs.

What happens if one of the schools that Meredith is planning to apply to doesn't meet her needs? For example, what if she chooses the top three schools from her ranked list and then discovers that one of them doesn't offer her major? Meredith should not apply to that school. Instead, she should choose the next college down on the list and make sure it meets her needs. If it does, she'll apply to that one. If it doesn't, she should keep moving down the list until she finds one that's right for her.

Dream vs. Safety School

Meredith knows which schools she wants to go to, and she's chosen her top three schools from her ranked list. They all meet her needs, so she's ready to apply. Her job of deciding where to apply to college is done, right?

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