Enjoy this new post from one of Magoosh’s High School Bloggers!
I want a shirt that says “2nd Semester Junior Year.” I then want to burn that shirt.
If you are in my situation, then you are either: 1) Shredding all your used AP books, 2) Sobbing uncontrollably as finals creep around the corner, or 3) Contemplating permanent hibernation.
As hectic as junior year is, though, the paranoia has a purpose. College application season is really just a few months away.
Junior year is an integral time to start narrowing down your college choices. You’ve probably heard this same thing from a dozen people, but it’s true! Make that college list.
There are literally thousands of colleges in the U.S, and thousands more across the globe. From all of these choices, how can you possibly narrow your choices down to just a handful?
Here are a few different factors to look into when looking for potential colleges.
1) Greek Life
Ah, the Greek life. Some people really couldn’t care for it, but to others it’s an essential part of the college experience. If you’re set on joining a school with a vibrant sorority/fraternity culture, check out schools with high percentages of their student body involved with Greek life. The Huffington Post has a nice compilation of colleges with the most Greek Life.
Are you adamant about staying close to home? Or are you dying to get out of your state? When you’re looking for colleges, don’t just look at its state or general region — you might also want to look at the city it’s situated in. Some college towns are notorious for being pricey, socially dead, or even dangerous.
I know a lot of people who refuse to go to certain schools for their population’s general political stance or ethnic demographic. If you’re a die-hard conservative Republican, for example, you might feel a bit uncomfortable at UC Berkeley. If you’re looking for a school with lots of religious diversity, you might not want to apply to Brigham Young University. This nice list of colleges from the U.S. News & World Report details colleges with high rates of ethnic diversity. Check it out if that’s something you’re looking for!
What? You have to learn in college, too?! Factors like class size and quality professors often make the difference between mediocre and top-notch academics. If this is important to you, check out the student-to-teacher ratio of the schools you’re applying to. If you know what you’re majoring in, check out the top schools in that area of expertise. Oftentimes, top-notch schools will not necessarily offer the best programs for your specific career path.
5) Retention rate
Retention rate is basically the amount of enrolled students who actually graduate without dropping out or switching out. Generally, a school’s retention rate is a great marker of student satisfaction. If you’re looking into a school with a 99% retention rate, chances are the student population is a happy one.
6) Name brand
Here come the big boys. If raising eyebrows at dinner parties and on your resumé is essential for you, you probably want to look into Ivy League schools (or almost-Ivies). If you decide to apply to these top schools, however, it’s important to remember that they are almost always “reach” schools. This means that almost no one is a guaranteed shoo-in.
Hopefully, these will help narrow down your college choices! College visits, virtual campus tours, college reviews, and Youtube videos made by current students can all help, too. When you finally do make your college list, make sure to include a mix of safety schools (schools which are pretty much guaranteed shoo-in’s), match schools (schools where you have a decent chance of getting in), and reach schools (schools which are long shots).
Don’t apply only to Ivies — and don’t cheat yourself out of applying to a good school because you don’t think you’re good enough!
Looking for colleges doesn’t have to be a total chore. It’s one of the most important steps of the college application process, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
Where do you want to spend the next four years of your life? It’s all up to you. Well, that is, unless your name is “2nd Semester Junior Year.”
2nd Semester Junior Year can go take a long walk off a short pier.
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About Maddi Lee
Maddi is currently a high school junior in southern California. She is an avid freelance writer and has been featured in multiple literary publications and anthologies. When she isn't writing, she loves traveling, doodling, and most of all, sleeping. Through her own experience and passion, she hopes to help guide fellow students through the roller coaster that is SAT and college admissions...that is, as long as she survives the journey herself!
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