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STREAMLINE YOUR LISTS OF COLLEGES 


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You've done tons of research and now have a list of potential colleges. However, the list may be too long - more than 10 is impractical and not doable.

Sallie Mae, the nation's leading provider of education funding, offers a number of tips to help you manage your college application list.

Learn Decision Strategies
Narrowing your list of schools to a manageable number may be your hardest job yet. Here are some tips and decision strategies:
  • Compare the pros and cons of each school on your list. Take out your files and use your notes to compare schools. If you haven't done it already, you might want to make a list of pros and cons for each school to help organize your thinking.

  • Group school choices by your chance of being admitted. Once you go through the pros and cons, try organizing your files into three different groups:

    Reach schools - which represent an admission challenge either in terms of cost, admission requirements, or both.

    Mid-range schools - where you're likely to get in, but you're not quite sure.

    Safety schools - where you're sure to be admitted and know you can afford.

  • Compile your final list, making sure to include schools from each category on your list and rank them in order of preference. Most counselors suggest including a number of reach and mid-range schools, as well as one or two safety schools.
Visit Schools
Visiting a school gives you a close-up look - a chance to focus on the details and actually experience the college before you make a commitment.

The number of schools you visit depends on your time and money. You probably won't be able to visit every school you're considering, but try to at least visit schools that will provide a variety of experiences. For example, check out a large and a small school, or go to one urban and one small-town campus. For those you can't visit, do the best you can with research, word-of-mouth or virtual tours available at www.campustours.com or on college Web sites.

After you visit a college, don't forget to send thank you notes to everyone you met with. It's a small courtesy that will help get you noticed.

Interview Students, Alumni and Friends
Whether you're able to visit schools or not, don't neglect word of mouth. No one can tell you more about a school than the people who already go there or just graduated.

Ask the admissions office if they can help you get in touch with recent graduates. Talk with students when you visit the campus. And, if any of your friends visited the same campus, compare notes with them.

Include Parents and Family
While choosing a school is your decision, your family has a big stake in it - emotionally and financially. So before you finalize your list of schools, check in with your parents.

Ask them what financial contribution they can make toward your higher education. Find out which schools they'd like you to consider and why. If opinions differ, try to see both sides of the issues and come to an agreement. Remember, at this point, you are simply trying to get a list of "apply to" schools. Your final decision is still in the future.


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