Where should I apply?

If you ask anyone where they went to college and the path they took to get where they are today you will find an assortment of stories full of opportunity, challenges and unexpected turns. It can be surprising to hear where a person spent their undergrad…and that’s the beauty in it. We all have a journey that is far from formulaic.

I highly recommend the book Where you go is not who you’ll be by Frank Bruni. Frank Bruni is a columnist for the New York Times and a bestselling author. His story dives into some of America’s most amazing programs and colleges and a good portion of them will surprise you. Some of the most influential people of our time went to colleges we’ve never heard of, or colleges that would surprise us. I encourage my students to explore all of their options, simply because there truly are so many options. I hope for my students to get to the heart of the programs, the college offerings and the college environment and find the best FIT.

I recently visited one of our local tutoring companies Compass Prep for a meeting and what I found in their guidebook inspired this post. The page entitled Well-known college graduates lists prominent people and the universities they attended. Take a look!


General tidbits per grade level…happy exploring!

Seniors: Typically I’ll recommend applying to 5 to no more than 10 colleges. Sure you have the right to apply to how ever many as you want, but keep in mind, you want to find colleges that fit your wants, needs and abilities. Colleges that you’ll be excited to attend and you’ve researched enough to know it’s a good fit. We hear words like “safety” and “reach.” All that this means is that you find a range of college that meet your academic abilities and you have a good chance of admission to. And guess what? The school that is your “safety” should be just as exciting to you as your reach. It’s true! Because at the end of the day your impact in your undergraduate college experience is much more than the name of the college. So set yourself up for success. Look at acceptance rates, programs, financial aid, the environment the college offers. Be able to tell someone why you are applying there, beyond the fact that it’s a “good school.” The more you research a college to ensure it’s a good fit, the easier it will be to write your applications, because you already know the programs and activities offered and why you want to go there.

Juniors: College rep visits at your school are the perfect opportunity to sit in a small group setting and hear more about colleges across the U.S. and around the world. You can hear about direct-entry programs, or programs that will get you a master’s degree in less than 5-6 years. You can hear about merit-scholarships and internships and study abroad options that are offered at all grade levels. It’s kind of amazing to dive deeper into a school and find that it’s a good fit for you. Tour colleges, take your time and remember, find colleges that fit your wants, needs and abilities.

Sophomores and Freshman: This is the perfect time to continue exploring your interests academically and outside the classroom. Attend college fairs, college rep visits and just start to take note of some things that start to interest you. No need to overdo it…explore!

Review my past post on College Exploration Resources  as a reference for ways to search new colleges. 

Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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