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Most students add the names of a couple of ’likely’ schools to their college lists without giving these ‘safe’ colleges much thought, because the applicants don’t imagine they may need to attend one of them. However, students should apply only to colleges that they are willing to attend (and gladly!). Thus, you need to spend as much time researching the schools that are likely to admit you as you do on the schools that are likely to deny you.
Start by identifying the characteristics you like about your favorite schools. Whether you’re looking for a certain academic program, internship opportunities, big sports and school spirit, active Greek life or an urban location, you can find these things at schools to which you are likely to be admitted. You just need to be open to possibilities.
It’s not always easy to figure out whether a college is a highly likely admit, partly because your chances can actually change from one year to the next. If a school enrolls a bigger than anticipated freshman class, it may admit fewer students the next year and your admission prospects may move from highly likely to possible. If a public university has funding cuts, it may be more selective and no longer a highly likely admit. Then again, if you are a non-resident student applying to that public university, the need for out of state tuition dollars might make it a likely admit for you.
But, in general, you can get an idea of your chances by looking at a school’s freshman profile. Instead of reporting an average SAT score or grade point average, many colleges report a 25 – 75 percent range, meaning that 25 percent of admitted students are below that range, 50 percent are within the range, and 25 percent are above the range. When your GPA and test scores are above the 75th percentile of admitted students, you are more likely to be admitted, because, while many colleges look at extracurricular activities, recommendations and essays, your academic record is of primary importance.
You cannot assume anything at very selective schools. If you are applying to the Ivies, Stanford, Tufts, Duke, or any school where the acceptance rate is below 25%, even if your grades and scores are at the upper end of the applicant pool, you need to consider the school a reach. Test optional policies have muddied the admission waters even more. At these schools, a stellar academic record is just the first step in the competition for a place in the freshman class.
It’s understandable, given the job market that recent college graduates have encountered, that many high school students are more concerned than ever with getting into the “best” college. They want to know that they will have good job prospects in the future. And their parents would rather spend the money on a school they perceive as securing their children’s future.
However, there are advantages to “highly likely” schools. You might get a merit scholarship that would bring the cost down considerably. If you are one of the stronger students, you may have a better chance of earning top grades, especially in science classes where exams can be graded on a curve. That is very important to pre-med, pre-law, pre-business or graduate school students.
If you have chosen your highly likely schools carefully, you will be highly successful and as happy as you would be at a more selective school. Talk to your professors and take opportunities for internships with them. Get involved in campus life and community service and undertake some leadership roles! Have a marvelous and happy experience!
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