College Matching

College Search – What You Should Look For

The average cost of a college application is $41. It would be too expensive and painstaking to apply everywhere.

Your dream school is out there waiting for you. But you shouldn’t just rely on rankings or big-name reputations to inform your decision on where to apply. Going Ivy spends a lot of time helping you with your list of perfect colleges for you. We truly believe what former president of National Association of College Admissions Counselors Frank Sachs wrote: “College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.”

The average cost of a college application is $41, according to U.S. News. While many are on the Common Application, many are not, and even those that are require supplemental short answers and long essays that should be school-specific. It would be too expensive, time-consuming and painstaking to apply everywhere. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are more than 4,000 degree-granting public and private colleges and universities in the United States. It helps to narrow down your options.

College Match

Choosing The Best Match

At Going Ivy, we start to look at good college matches for each student in terms of the ABCDs: Academics, Budget, Culture and your Distinguishing features.

Your proven academic abilities from high school carries the strongest weight in your application and it will determine if a college is a reach, target or safety school to you. Your academics will also determine if options like honors programs are available to you. And you want to consider the match of a school with a reputation for competitive students, classes with no grades, internship or research opportunities, accessibility of professors, and more.

In terms of budget, think about how you plan to pay for wherever you are thinking of attending. Going Ivy can help you discover what colleges offer merit scholarships, financial aid, work study or other options to cover your costs. Some colleges and universities are very generous with students whose parents make below a certain annual income threshold, so it’s never a good idea to eliminate a school from your list based solely on the sticker price. But elite schools aren’t offering a lot of merit scholarships either. Pro tip: The earlier you submit your applications, the better your chances of receiving financial aid packages.

The culture of the school that matches you could be influenced by a number of factors.

Size: Smaller colleges can provide greater access and interaction with professors and less competition to get a treadmill at the gym or cozy seat in the library. Larger colleges usually offer more fields of study and more activities to become involved in. But be cautious of generalizations regarding the size of the school, especially if an honors programs exists at a larger school you’re interested in, or if you’ll mostly be grouped by major or area of interest.

Location: You’ll want to consider if the college is situated in a city vs suburb vs college town. Will you have options for a movie theater or public transportation or jobs off campus? You’ll also want to consider the area of the country you’ll choose. Would you prefer a New England college or somewhere in the Southwest? Think about how often you’ll see the sun, how close you’ll be to family or relatives, or how expensive or convenient it might be to travel back and forth.

Scope of Academics: The main difference here is between a liberal arts school and a pre-professional school or a research university. Many of these schools offer the same majors or fields of study, but, traditionally, liberal arts colleges emphasize a core curriculum that will involve history, philosophy, math, art and maybe more. Schools that will ask for your major before you are even admitted might keep you more focused on preparing you for your chosen career after college, without as much focus on other subjects you might not know of or be interested in.

Religious Influence: There are many prestigious colleges and universities with strong core values influenced by Jesuits, Methodists and many other religious orders or denominations. Consider what this influence can offer you and what course requirements might come with admission. Even if a college is not founded as a religious institution, many campuses have religious groups for students to find community and stay active in their faith.

Diversity on Campus: Statistics abound on how much diversity in ethnicity, geographic origin, sexual orientation and more any college or university has, from the student body to the professors and administration. Some schools have clubs and resources for students of various ethnic identities or other characteristics. Consider how important of a factor this is to you.

Student Body Characteristics: How will you “fit in” with your classmates? How many students participate in fraternities or sororities? Are there lots of student-run clubs or activities?

Prestige: Consider how important attending a prestigious or highly ranked school is to you.

Your distinguishing factor for admissions might be that your parents went there (you are a legacy), or you are the football captain at your high school, or you have research published on neurobiology work from a medical internship you held, or you won academic awards from your Jesuit high school. Not every student has a truly unique distinguishing factor, but if you have it, Going Ivy can help you use it to your advantage.

How Going Ivy Can Help

At Going Ivy, fit is emphasized for academics, budget, culture and anything that distinguishes you. Not sure about some or all of these categories? At Going Ivy, we have worksheets, software, resources and in-depth conversations to arrive at a list of schools that you’re excited to apply to. The list will include one or two safe bet schools, several that are a great match, and a few that will be a bit of a reach. You might even be a candidate to apply for a “lottery” school (a college with such a low acceptance rate that getting in is like winning the lottery). But you can’t get in if you don’t apply. And when Going Ivy students apply, there’s a very strong history of being accepted. See our list of admitted schools.

Contact Going Ivy to Schedule Your Consultation

Going Ivy recognizes the importance of choosing the list of colleges to apply to that will propel you into a bright future. In order to help you with your decision, we offer all of our prospective students free, no-obligation consultations. This allows you to ask us whatever you’d like to know and allows us the ability to learn more about you, your goals and your unique characteristics that will match you with schools. Call us today to learn more about how we can help and schedule your appointment.


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