With thousands of colleges in the United States and many others abroad, choosing a campus can be overwhelming, but if you take the time to answer the questions that follow, the resulting list of college campuses will reflect your goals, needs, and interests, instead of being reduced to a search for a renowned “name” or even a campus that is convenient but may not have the offerings and environment that will be a good match and fit for YOU.
There are many resources available, including websites, reference books in the College/Career Center, college rep visits, college fairs, opportunities to visit campuses, and advice from counselors, family, and friends to help discover the right match. Avail yourself of these resources and visit the College Resource Center for additional help.
To keep track of the colleges you are researching you should carefully compare colleges and the subjects of study you are considering and a variety of other factors. The following college comparison worksheet is one template of many that are available online.
What to Look for in a College Program
What do you think you might want to study in college? What are some possible college majors? You are not being asked to choose an exact college major at this point in your life, but it would be wise to know what choices are available and have a general idea of types of subjects and programs that interest you. In addition, you can discover a great deal of information about yourself by taking a few surveys about possible career interest, your personality, skills, and strengths (see Naviance).
You should research colleges that offer courses, majors and programs in your areas of interest and that excel in those areas. Compare programs and class offerings, professor credentials and achievements, department support and enthusiasm, websites, research grants and programs, and any publicity or reports about that department. Again, using a ratings form to compare differences will help you narrow your list. Note that it is important to check policies on changing majors and transferring from one department to another within a university; often majors are capped or have very competitive admissions process, so a change of major is not always possible.
How challenging and competitive do want the academic environment to be? How difficult will it be to apply and be admitted?
- Some colleges require specific courses for enrollment beyond the requirements for Pine View graduates and entry to Florida public universities. Check on this.
- If you learn best when you have extra support, it will be important to find a college with programs for helping students with learning differences (see Special Learning Needs).
- Co-operative Education (Co-op) Programs are a structured method of combining classroom based education with practical work experience at the same time. These colleges ave become very popular. For more information on such programs visit Cooperative Education & Internship Association and WACE.
- Guaranteed Admission to Medical School through BS/MD programs are offered on a limited number of campuses based on grades, test scores, and a rigorous interview process These programs are extremely competitive and require thorough early planning in the application process. Visit What's It Like to be an Undergrad in a B.S./M.D. Program?
- Honors or Dual Degree Programs. Many less competitive colleges have strong programs for academically competitive students (Honors Colleges). These programs can be a financial bargain because they combine a relatively low-cost college with an excellent high-value academic experience; a competitive college within a college. There a number of top shelf Honors Colleges within State University System of Florida.
Getting in: How easy or difficult will it be to be admitted?
Many 4-year colleges have a very high acceptance rate and admit 50%, 75%, or more of their applicants. For these campuses, the application process is usually fairly straight-forward, including filling out an application, sending test scores and transcripts. Many do not require letters of recommendation. Some 4-year colleges have guaranteed admission for certain combinations of grades and test scores, while others do not require ACT or SAT scores at all (see FairTest).
However, many 4-year colleges have become very competitive and the sheer number of students applying means that each student needs to invest more time and energy into using each part of the application to help the admission committee have a fuller picture of the student’s academics, activities, passions, goals, and interest in the campus.
To determine how competitive the admissions process will be, you will need to look at the grade point averages and SAT/ACT scores, as well as the percentage of students admitted. In the extreme, this percentage can be as low as 5-6%. These figures can be found on the college websites or on the Internet sites and guidebooks listed below under Helpful Links. One particularly useful site is CollegeNavigator.
What is the cost? (Tuition, Room and Board, Books and Fees, Transportation)
College costs can range from $2,000 per year (at 2-year college with transferable credits) to $60,000+ per year at the most expensive private college campuses. Ask the following, questions in discussions at home: How much can your family contribute each year to your education costs? How much can you contribute from jobs, savings, or gifts? Are you eligible for financial aid? Are you or your family willing to consider loans to help pay for college? Are you willing to set aside the time to search and apply for scholarships? For more information consult the Paying for College section of this website.
The College Campus
Where is the campus located? What is important to you about the location of your college? What is the climate? What is the setting: rural, suburban, or urban? Consider the cost of travel, proximity to airports, campus safety, and availability of local transportation and cultural events. You should visit campuses whenever possible and take advantage of virtual tours on the college website and other sites that include virtual tours. See Visiting Colleges.
What is the enrollment size of the campus/program? What class environment is best for the way you learn? What is most important to you about the size of the campus?
Sizes range from 24 to 60,000+ students! Small campuses can be more cohesive and personal and students live on campus all 4 years. They usually have smaller class sizes and easier access to professors. Large campuses can have more choices majors and diversity, and are often less expensive. They may have more research opportunities, and activities/ athletic programs. College Honors Programs can provide small learning communities on large campuses (for example Burnett Honors College at UCF).
What other features and activities are important/vital to you personally? What else, besides academics, does your college need to have in order for you to be interested in applying?
Clubs, sports, fine arts, jobs, types of dorms, religious affiliations, study-abroad programs, dietary requirements, facilities for special needs, local transportation, sororities and fraternities, foreign language immersion programs, internships, job placement programs, are just some features to consider.
What are Colleges looking for as they select students?
Colleges are in the business of education. On a general basis, they want to admit students who care about academics, will succeed in their degree programs, and go on to become responsible and contributing citizens. They also want students who will be able to handle the sudden independence that college requires. They are not just looking for good grades, they are also looking for maturity, the ability to make good decisions, and students who will be good roommates and invest in the overall life of the campus.
How will they find out if YOU will be this kind of student on their campus?
They will make the best decision they can based on the information you provide them in your application. When colleges receive all the parts of your application they are trying to get an overall picture of who you are. Your academic transcript from Pine View is the most important part of your application, so it is critical that you maintain a challenging course load based on your interests, and always put forth your best effort in all of your classes.
You will be taking SAT and ACT tests and ordering the scores to be sent from those testing organizations directly to the colleges to which you are applying. Some colleges may admit you just based on your grade point average and SAT or ACT scores alone. Some colleges will want more information about what you do in addition to attending core subject classes at school. In addition to the general questions on the application itself, they will want to see a description of your interests and activities on a resume. They may also want to know what teachers/counselors write about you in letters of recommendation, and what you say about yourself in your application essay (See Letters of Recommendation and Essays).
If you are applying to a special program, you may be admitted based on your athletic ability, your performance audition, or your art portfolio (under Special Circumstances tab).
There are also a few colleges that offer or require an interview so that you can meet with one of their representatives locally or at Pine View, and talk about your reasons for applying, and some of your interests and goals (see Interviews).
Requirements for admission will vary with each college and program. Admissions officers will ask for some or all of this information, so it is important to know the exact requirement of each. College websites will list these requirements on their Admissions page.
Resources to help with research about colleges
- All colleges and universities have websites with information on course offerings, professor credentials and achievements, research grants and programs.
- There are many useful websites for looking up summary information on colleges, including College Board, other site and various college search sites found on Helpful Sites and through Naviance. Recording the colleges you are thinking about on Naviance allows you to receive information and automatic notifications when the college reps visit Pine View or the local area.
- One report that all colleges and universities complete yearly is worth noting for its thorough reporting of many different statistics, The Common Data Set. Categories include: enrollment and persistence, admission, student life, financial aid, and degrees conferred. A handful of schools choose not to publish their report but most can be found by a web search of the school name followed by the words “common data set.”
- Virtual Tours on each campus website and sites designed to offer these tours.
- The College Resource Room and bookstores have many college guides available. Each guide has a different perspective. As a start, consider the College Handbook published by College Board every year, Fiske Guide to Colleges, or Students' Guide to Colleges. Copies of these books and others are available at the College Resource Office.
- Over 100 college representatives visit Pine View every year. Listen for announcements and be sure to check the College Visit schedule in Family Connection for upcoming visits.
- College Fairs occur in the fall and spring in Sarasota and Tampa. Students can meet reps, ask questions, and fill out contact information.
The Final List: Variety and Number
Compose a list of colleges that have as many of your priorities as possible from the questions you have answered about majors, cost, location, size, and features. Make sure your list has a variety of colleges in terms of how competitive they are to be accepted. Your final list should include no more than
- Two to Three “Likely” schools that are highly likely to lead to acceptance and are within your family's budget.
- Two to four “Target” schools where there is a reasonable chance of being accepted and a fair chance of receiving some merit scholarship money.
- A small number of reach schools (1-3) where the chances of acceptance are low (<10% to 20%) and there is little likelihood of receiving merit aid (unless this is not a factor).
*Please note that lists of more than 8-10 schools will be supported and processed differently by the Pine View College Office. Beyond this number, the level of support and urgency of processing will naturally diminish due to issues of clarity, equity and resources available. Please also refer to The Pine View Statement of Ethics as both a guide and context for the values and expectations we support as a community.*
As you refine your final college list, add each to Colleges I'm Applying to on Naviance. You will receive automatic notifications when college reps visit or information is available to share with you. You should also register on the college website to receive communication, emails and notification of events and rep visits. This will document your communication with the college and show demonstrated interest.
Final Note: Throughout the process of deciding where you want to apply to college, remember that your counselor and the resources of the College Resource Office are available to you. Share your questions and concerns with us as you discover more about yourself and are narrowing your choices for your post-Pine View destination.