ERIC Identifier: ED266339
Publication Date: 1985-00-00
Author: Bidelman, Kathy Gilden
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Selecting a College: A Checklist Approach. Highlights: An
ERIC/CAPS Fact Sheet.
Finding, selecting and applying for the right college or university is
an important and sometimes tough assignment that many high school students and
their parents have to face. It involves letter writing, telephoning, research,
weighing alternatives, and plain hard thinking (COLLEGE-BOUND DIGEST, 1983). But
with planning and a step-by-step approach, chances of making a good decision are
high. This digest provides a checklist for selecting a college, including the
following: student objectives and college characteristics, selection by
computers and guidebooks, gathering information, applying for admission,
responding to admission offers, and a list of resource documents.
STARTING WITH A LIST OF OBJECTIVES
Selecting a college has lasting effects: what students become four years
later is influenced by which college they choose, and how they go about getting
into it once they have selected it (THE INSIDER'S GUIDE, 1981). No two colleges
are exactly alike, and some are very different. There are more than 3,000
colleges, universities, technical institutes, junior colleges, seminaries, and
other institutions of higher education in the United States (THE COLLEGE
A good beginning in selecting a college is to make a list of objectives, both
educational and personal. High school courses need to be planned early with
college entrance requirements in mind. The purpose is not to make decisions
about a course of study that may turn out to be premature, but to keep the
options open until such decisions can be made. The areas of educational and
personal interest that students most frequently cite as important in selecting a
college include the following:
- Location (state, city, region) - Type of institution (two-year community
college, four-year university, etc.) - Enrollment by sex - Religious
affiliation, if any - Enrollment size - Academic calendar Campus environment -
Majors or course offerings - Housing (on-campus, off-campus) - Cost - Financial
aid - Student activities - Athletics - General academic reputation - Social life
- Entrance requirements - Teaching reputation or ability of faculty
Obviously, not all of these items will be of high priority, but using them as
a checklist helps to specify the range of choices. Although students may want to
make changes or modifications in the list as they review colleges, it is
important not to eliminate any of these areas until students know which are
essential and which are not. Even then, it is quite possible that no college
will meet all of an individual's needs.
USING COMPUTER PROGRAMS AND GUIDEBOOKS
The microcomputer is an excellent tool in the college selection process. The
College Board's College Explorer, Peterson's College Selection Service for
Four-Year Colleges, and Peterson's Selection Service for Two-Year Colleges are
microcomputer programs that assist students in locating colleges with the
features they want. A complete summary can be displayed on the screen, or a list
of colleges that match the students' requirements can be printed for later
reference. Many high school guidance offices and public libraries now offer
these services. If the service is not available, the same information can be
obtained, with a little effort, from the following commercial guidebooks:
- LOVEJOY'S COLLEGE GUIDE - THE COLLEGE HANDBOOK - PETERSON'S ANNUAL GUIDE -
ONE HUNDRED TOP COLLEGES: HOW TO CHOOSE & GET IN - BARRON'S PROFILES OF
AMERICAN COLLEGES - BARRON'S GUIDE TO THE BEST, MOST POPULAR, & MOST
EXCITING COLLEGES - AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES - THE COLLEGE BLUE BOOK
College counselors recommend these standard guides, which are updated
annually. They differ in style and content, and some go beyond facts and
statistics to provide "inside" information gathered from students and alumni.
ACQUIRING MORE INFORMATION
After drawing up a list of preferred colleges, students are ready to gather
information and explore their choices in depth. The more information they
acquire, the more likely they will make a good decision. Making a file on each
college and keeping copies of correspondence, applications, personal notes,
financial aid information, and names of personal contacts and conversations with
people on campus can serve as excellent sources for making the final choice.
The primary sources for gathering information on colleges include the
- COLLEGE CATALOGS--basic source of information about a college containing
detailed information on admission procedures and policies, academic and degree
requirements, costs, student life, and financial aid. Available directly from
the college, or sometimes from a high school counselor, school library, or
- COLLEGE REPRESENTATIVES--students may meet with representatives from
colleges, such as the director of admissions and admissions officers, to obtain
more information or answer individual questions.
- COLLEGE VISITS--campus visits are one of the most effective means to
determine if the college is the right one (COLLEGE-BOUND DIGEST, 1983). Many
colleges provide campus tours and programs which give an excellent opportunity
to get a feeling of size and atmosphere. Ideally, these visits can be combined
with an admissions interview.
- COLLEGE STUDENTS, FACULTY, OR RECENT ALUMNI--talking to current students is
an excellent way to gather first-hand impressions and personal opinions about a
college and student life. If it is not economically or geographically possible
to visit the campus, the admissions office can provide names of alumni
representatives who live in the student's area.
- HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELORS--as trained professionals, guidance counselors can
provide invaluable information.
- PARENTS AND FRIENDS--according to a group of recent college-bound students,
family and friends are one of the best sources of information about colleges
(THE COLLEGE HANDBOOK, 1984). They can be a good source of information,
opinions, and trustworthy advice.
- COLLEGE FAIRS/COLLEGE NIGHTS--many high school guidance offices schedule
regular visits from college representatives during the senior year. College
fairs are particularly helpful to those who have not had the opportunity to
visit many college campuses or talk with college representatives (GUIDE TO
COLLEGE IN THE MIDWEST, 1984). These fairs provide an excellent opportunity to
talk to many college representatives and gather information the same day.
- COMMERCIAL GUIDEBOOKS--see section, "Using Computer Programs and
APPLYING FOR ADMISSION
The procedures for applying for admission vary from one college to another,
but usually the first step is to obtain an application form from the college.
This should be done as early as possible in the senior year, or at the end of
the junior year if seeking early admission. Students applying for financial aid
may also be required to meet early deadlines.
Filling out the application completely and carefully is very important. In
addition, many colleges require a recommendation from the secondary school
counselor, administrator, or teacher. It is the individual student's
responsibility to file the completed application on time, meet deadline dates
for submitting test scores, and file financial aid applications. The school
counselor is the key resource for information on test scores, financial aid
forms, deadline dates, and other particulars.
- APPLICATION FEE--most charge an application fee, usually not refundable
even if the application is rejected.
- ACADEMIC RECORDS--the counselor submits a secondary school transcript or
college transfer record of student courses, final grades, and test scores.
- ADMISSION TEST SCORES--for many students, the college selection process
begins with the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), which is taken in
the fall of the junior year. High school counselors advise students which of the
college entrance tests to take--Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), American College
Testing Program Test (ACT), Achievement Test (ACH), and the Advanced Placement
Tests (AP)--and when to take them.
- LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION--some colleges require one or more letters of
recommendation from a teacher, counselor, clergy, alumnus, or adult member of
- ESSAY--a personal essay or autobiographical statement is required by some
institutions, particularly four-year, private colleges (THE COLLEGE HANDBOOK,
RESPONDING TO ADMISSION OFFERS
Once students have heard from all the colleges to which they have applied, it
is their responsibility to send a letter of acceptance or rejection of admission
offers. According to a 1980 report on undergraduate admissions policies
published by the College Board, 83 percent of all college applicants can expect
to be accepted by their first-choice college (THE COLLEGE HANDBOOK, 1984).
The steps described in this fact sheet can serve students as a useful
checklist for finding, selecting, and applying to college. By following these
steps, students can lay the basic groundwork for a rewarding college experience.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES. Hawthorne, NY: Walter de Gruyter, Inc.,
BARRON'S GUIDE TO THE BEST, MOST POPULAR, & MOST EXCITING COLLEGES.
Woodbury, NY: Barron's Educational Series., 1982.
BARRON'S PROFILES OF AMERICAN COLLEGES: DESCRIPTIONS OF THE COLLEGES.
Woodbury, NY: Barron's Educational Series, l982.
COLLEGE-BOUND DIGEST. Northbrook, IL: Who's Who among American High School
Students, 1983. ED 235 710.
Kaye, K. R. (Ed.). GUIDE TO COLLEGES IN THE MIDWEST. Princeton, NJ:
Peterson's Guide, 1984.
Kaye, K. R. (Ed.). GUIDE TO FOUR-YEAR COLLEGES 1985. Princeton, NJ:
Peterson's Guides, 1984.
McClintock, J. ONE HUNDRED COLLEGES: HOW TO CHOOSE & GET IN. NY: John
Wiley, Inc., 1982. ED 224 449.
Nicholson, J.M. "A Guide to the College Guides." CHANGE, 15(1) (l983): 16-21,
Straughn, C.T., II and B.L. Straughn, eds. LOVEJOY'S COLLEGE GUIDE. NY:
Monarch Press, 1985.
THE COLLEGE BLUE BOOK. NY: MacMillan, 1983.
THE COLLEGE HANDBOOK 1984-85. New York: College Entrance Examination Board,
THE INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE COLLEGES. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1981.