Five Tips for Planning your University List

five tips

Dear Grade 11’s,

You are about to begin the university application process. In less than 12 months, you will have accepted one of many offers of acceptance from various universities. Getting there from here will require careful planning on your part. Regular communication and cooperation with your counsellor is vital! The time to start is now as many of you already have.

Developing your list of “Universities I’m Thinking About” should be recorded in your Naviance account. The list you develop should be made up of universities and programs that are “good fits”.

A good fit school is a place that has the right competitive playing field for you. A place where your academic credentials are at least in the top half of the minimum reported for the class entering this Fall. Good fit schools are also places where you will be valued for what you have to offer. Below are a series of 5 tips to help you get this list developed:

  1. Look in the mirror and ask yourself – are you looking at a university based on name and reputation and less concerned about whether the institution actually makes sense for you? For example: In what type of learning environment are you most likely to comfortably function in ? What kind of people do you want to live and study with ? What are 3-4 things you want to make sure you accomplish by the time you graduate? What will make your 4 years away a successful experience?
  1. Identify the “nitty-gritties” that matter to you. Where do you want to live over the next four years? In an Urban – Rural – commuter environment? How far from home can you be? What type of winter can you tolerate? Will you have access to sports teams? What type of social life is there? Do you  want to enter a Big, Medium or Small school population? Are the academic programs broad enough or flexible enough for you?  Clearly, there will be a lot on your mind as you look at universities. Rate these as “Very Important”? Or as “Would it be nice”? Be careful not to let the “would be nice” factors drive your decision-making.
  1. Build you list thoughtfully – While you might be feeling some angst about the need to come up with a short list right now, time is still on your side. This is where your conversations with your experienced counsellor are so important.
  1. Travel – Visit – meet Admissions officers. Throughout the summer and in to next year, plan time for university visits—and not just visits to the campuses of the schools you know. Check out research universities and liberal arts colleges. Explore the differences. Compare urban campuses with those in suburban and rural areas. Learn what you can from personal observation, not rumour. Getting a feel for a university can only really happen if you are on the campus and talk to current students and professors. Also, be sure to attend our University Presentations as they roll through our school. The ever-expanding list of universities coming to York to talk to you is on Naviance. Sign up for the ones you are interested in.
  1. Keep your list Balanced – There should be “reach,” “target” and “likely admit” schools on your list. Do not simply list out all of your “dream” schools at the expense of smart decision-making. Students and parents often apply the logic of “Well, how will I know if I can get in if I don’t try?” This logic is knotty in two ways: 1) it implicitly diminishes the value of any school that is not in the “dream” category and 2) it can be incredibly limiting by creating blinders with regard to more appropriate options. The odds of getting into places where the probability of admission is low don’t increase if you apply to more of them. Moreover, including such schools on a college list may distract you from presenting well at places where you might otherwise have a reasonable chance of gaining admission. By all means, allow yourself a dream/reach school (or two). It is best, however, to build your list around target schools—places where your credentials would put your probability of admission in the 40-60% range, places where you will be valued for what you have to offer. There are never any guarantees in the admission process, but putting yourself on the right competitive playing field will be critical to your eventual success as an applicant. By September, you should be ready to whittle your list down to a list of 7 “Universities I am Applying To” That number might include 1-2 low-probability dream schools and 1-2 places where you are likely to be admitted and the rest being targeted schools.

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