Step 2: Drill down deeper in the areas that matter to you.
Major or program: Be careful not to limit yourself too much. Most high school students change their minds several times about a college major. In fact, most college students do too! But if you're looking for a place with an ROTC program, or a 3-2 Engineering track, or a marching band, you can refine your search to uncover these schools.
Activities and environment: Love city life? Try searching for urban colleges. Interested in joining a fraternity or sorority? Filter for schools with Greek life. Does size matter? Specify how large or small a college is.
Is it a good fit academically? The question is not as simple as "Can I get in?" Consider whether you enjoy a challenging academic environment, or would rather spend more time pursuing out of class interests.
How do you compare to current students at a particular college? Most search engines provide information about average High School GPA, Class Rank and SATs or ACTs. Generally, information about test scores (SAT or ACT) is presented in percentile ranges.
For example, a college may report that its SAT middle range for the Critical Reading section is 500-610; and for the Math section, 520-620.
What does this mean?
- Half (50%) of its students (usually the most recent entering class) had Critical Reading scores between 500 and 610 and Math scores between 520 and 620.
- One quarter (25%) had CR scores below 500 and Math scores below 520.
- One quarter (25%) had CR scores above 610 and Math scores above 620.
How do your test scores compare? If your scores are in the bottom quarter, it might be a challenge for you to be admitted, and if you are, you will find it very rigorous academically. If your scores are in the top quarter, you may be more likely to receive merit-based scholarships from this school.
Insider Tip: Many colleges "superscore" your SAT or ACT results, which means they will choose your best sub-score (Critical Reading, Math) among all your scores and combine those to create one "superscore."
Do they do this because they are nice? Not really. They do it because it raises their average score statistics and makes them look better in college rankings.
When searching, try using scores that are 100 points below yours as the bottom 25th percentile and scores 100 points above yours as the top 25th percentile to start. Then adjust from there.