Ask the college admissions expert: How do I choose which schools to put on my college list in the age of COVID-19?

19 May 2020 | 10:22

In anticipation of the winding down of social distancing, leaders in the United States and Europe are experimenting with varied ways to open their doors safely. Long before COVID-19, one of the most compelling aspects of college life was the opportunity to engage in a learning community around ideas and, now that students have been confined to learning online, that in-person contact becomes even more important to a good college fit. One of the most important reasons to get back into a physical classroom is not only to foster the open exchange of ideas between teacher and student, but also among student peers.

As high school students consider which schools make their college list, and what they would like their college experience to be, some initial variables to consider are easy and straightforward and don’t require campus visits.

Start with a narrative description. Many high schools provide students with a great starting point, Naviance, which offers a robust search tool and quality descriptions of colleges. A college’s website is also an excellent informational resource. A third trusted resource for many students and college counselors is the Fiske Guide which provides a 2-page narrative as well as a list of similar overlap schools. For instance, a student who is considering a school like SUNY Binghamton will find a list of similar schools in the Fiske guide including Clemson, University of New Hampshire, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, Miami of Ohio, Cornell, NYU, and Boston University.

Two variables that a student should review when narrowing their college list are the college retention rate and the graduation rate. A retention rate represents the percentage of students who return after their freshman year. The graduation rate is the percentage of students who graduate in 4 or 6 years. By considering the retention and graduation rates, a student can compare schools and get an indication as to how happy students are at the institution and how successful students are in completing their degree.

If you are a high school student who is looking to reduce the stress around the college process, if you want to develop a college list that you love, write impactful application essays, and have confidence in your college decisions, please reach out to us at College Mode Consulting to see how we can help make sure the most compelling and authentic version of you comes through on your application.

Sharon Davis and Lynn Lillian have been independent educational consultants operating College Mode Consulting since 2019. Their office is located in Warwick where they work with students both regionally and nationally. Sharon Davis is a graduate of University at Albany with a BS in Business Administration and holds a certificate in College Counseling from UCLA. Lynn Lillian is a graduate of NYU, holds a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson and a certificate in College Counseling from UCLA.