Choosing the right school

How do I know which college is right for me when I am narrowing down my schools? I want to go to a competitive school but don’t know if I’ll get in.

Don’t just focus on the rankings. Be prepared to spend some time researching online, and maybe even visiting schools if it’s possible. If there are specific qualities you like about a top school, make note of them and investigate other places that possess similar characteristics. For example, if you what you like about Princeton is the idea of a small college town, a leafy, traditional campus, and a close-knit undergraduate population, you may also want to look at liberal arts colleges like Williams or Swarthmore.

Another important factor in selecting schools is to try to have a sense of what you hope to major in once you’re accepted and have arrived on campus. Sometimes schools that have the top programs in one specific area are not necessarily ranked overall as highly as other universities. Be sure to take a look at schools that have strong departments in the area you plan on focusing your time within, and don’t be afraid to consider a less overall competitive school if in fact they rank very highly in the area that matters most to your academic future. University of Illinois is one of the top schools for computer science; while it may not have the prestige of an Ivy, if you intend to study computer science, it could be a great safety school to consider where you will get the academic training you need to be successful.

Lastly, in a general sense - don’t forget that no one knows for sure what will be right for you except for YOU. Go with your gut instincts when you are narrowing it down, and self-advocate your choices to the adults around you who are assisting in your college application process.