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Articles / Applying to College / College Selection & Application Options

Dec. 3, 2013

College Selection & Application Options

For high school seniors who are in the throes of the college application process, this time of year (early December, at this writing) can be stressful for a number of reasons. By the way, if you happen to be a high school junior, you should pay attention to the kinds of issues your senior pals are having because you are just a year away from those same issues. They happen to include selecting the right list of schools to apply to and how to best market yourself in the turbulent sea of entrance requirements. (How's that for an exciting image?)

So, I thought what we might take a look at today, first, would be how to create (hopefully all you seniors are well beyond the creation phase) or complete your list of candidate colleges that will receive your application. Second, we also need to consider some options for dealing with specific application strategies, mainly the issue of low or problematical standardized test scores. Believe it or not, it's not too late to make minor (or even major) course corrections in your college application process.

While I'm thinking about it, a brief sidebar: Have you heard about SuperMatch? If not, click that link and prepare yourself to be amazed at how easy the college search has become. SuperMatch utilizes a “fuzzy" approach to ranking your preferences. That way, not only do you get a list of schools that match your needs perfectly, but you'll also see the ones that come close. If you haven't started thinking about your college process yet by this point in your high school career, that keyword “fuzzy" may also apply to your overall thought process (or even your grades!).


So, shucking right down to the cob, as the late newscaster, Paul Harvey, used to say, you need to get settled on your college list. Ever notice how quickly deadlines sneak up on us? The older we get, the faster they appear. Think back to when you were in first grade. Remember how it seemed like Christmas would never arrive? Well, you're in high school now; apparently every milestone is just around the corner. If you're a senior, there's a very big deadline looming: your decision about college.

Maybe you've put off thinking about what to do, where to go, how to pay, and all those other key issues involved in the college search and planning process. If you have, then it's time to take a deep breath and make some hard choices. Now! These issues don't just take care of themselves. You and your family have to do something about them.

If you haven't already done so, how can you get started? The best place is in your high school guidance office. Sitting there right now are two key ingredients to making college decisions: your guidance counselor and a pile of books and materials about college. You must talk to your counselor and you must read some material. You must also get your family involved in the college search and planning process. It's a team sport.

Here's a rough timetable of events for those of you who haven't yet done any planning or choices about college. It's now the beginning of December of your senior year. That's pretty darn late to start thinking about college. But it's not too late. Your counselor has probably spoken to you on more than one occasion asking you what your thoughts are about college. If you have so far been undecided, make a resolution to start making some decisions.

Talk to your counselor as soon as possible. If you really want to go to college, come up with a minimum of three college choices. Make certain your family is totally involved in your selection process. Check the entrance requirements of the colleges you've chosen. Obviously, they're going to have some guidelines; make sure your profile fits theirs.

Now you've got the ball rolling. Don't panic. There is still enough time for you to make the right choices about college. Again, remember to talk to your counselor, read the resource materials, keep your family involved with every step you take, and don't forget SuperMatch!

I'm willing to bet that if you get started with this process–even today,with SuperMatch–you can have your Common Application ready to go out to some reasonably well-considered colleges within the next two weeks. Of course, if you haven't met the testing requirements (SATs,ACTs, Subject Tests, etc.) then you could be up the proverbial waterway without a means of propulsion, if you get my drift. However, there's even a way around test requirements: the so-called “test-optional" colleges. These are schools that don't require you to submit standardized test scores (SATs,ACTs, Subject Tests, etc.). Here's where to find those schools. This could be the key that unlocks college doors for you.

When you go to the FairTest site, you'll see these welcome words, “Schools That Do Not Use SAT or ACT Scores for Admitting Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor Degree Programs." Oh, happy day! You'll also see this further explanation:

This list includes colleges and universities that de-emphasize the use of standardized tests by making admissions decisions about substantial numbers of applicants who recently graduated from U.S. high schools without using the SAT or ACT.

As the notes indicate, some schools exempt students who meet grade-point average or class rank criteria while others require SAT or ACT scores but use them only for placement purposes or to conduct research studies. Please check with the school's admissions office to learn more about specific admissions requirements, particularly for international or non-traditional students.

The schools are listed in alphabetical order. Here's a sample listing:

Northcentral UniversityOnline
Northeastern Illinois University1, 3ChicagoIL
Northeastern State University1, 3TahlequahOK
Northern Arizona University3FlagstaffAZ
Northern New Mexico CollegeEspanolaNM
Northern State University 3AberdeenSD
Northland International UniversityDunbarWI
Northrop-Rice Aviation Institute of TechnologyInglewoodCA
Northwest College of Art & DesignPoulsboWA
Northwest Florida State CollegeNicevilleFL
Northwest Nazarene College1, 3NampaID
Northwestern Health Sciences UniversityBloomingtonMN
Northwestern Oklahoma State University1, 3AlvaOK
Northwestern Polytechnic UniversityFremontCA
Northwestern State University1NatchitochesLA
Oak Hills Christian College3BemidjiMN
Oakland University1, 3RochesterMI
Oakwood University1HuntsvilleAL
Oglala Lakota CollegeKyleSD
Ohio State University, Mansfield2MansfieldOH
Ohio State University, Marion2MarionOH
Ohio State University, Newark2NewarkOH
Ohio University: Eastern Campus1St. ClairsvilleOH
Ohio University: Lima Campus2LimaOH
Ohio University: Southern Campus at IrontonIrontonOH
Ohio University: Zaneville CampusZanevilleOH
Ohr HaMeir Theological SeminaryCourtland ManorNY
Ohr Somayach-Tanenbaum Ed. CenterMonseyNY
Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts1Oklahoma CityOK
Oklahoma Panhandle State UniversityGoodwellOK
Oklahoma State University3

So, the answers to your December college application process complications (if you're experiencing any) may well lie with SuperMatch and FairTest. You can use SuperMatch to identify those colleges that meet your criteria, either for the heart of your list or to fill out those remaining details, such as additional ballpark or safety selections.

You can then cross-index those schools with FairTest's long list of test-optional schools to see if there are any matches. You may even find a few super matches (pardon the pun) that satisfy your need to find a school or schools that both fill in a critical part of your college list and make an allowance for your less-than-stellar SAT/ACT performances.

Yes, it is late, but there is still time for you to find a way, if you have the will to do so. Where there is a will, then there is a way.

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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