College Lists

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How Many Colleges You Apply To Matters

Hofstra University

Hofstra University

I often get asked the question, “How many colleges should I apply to?” I’ve heard many arguments for the “right” number of schools and, to be honest, I think it’s all a crapshoot. As every student is different in his or her abilities, profile, priorities, and goals, the right number of colleges for each student is just as subjective.

So what do I tell students when they ask? I tell them to apply to colleges they love and where they feel they will be happy and successful. I tell them to apply to colleges they can afford. I tell them to apply to colleges where they will find everything they are looking for, where they will grow as people and where they will be successful.

Sometimes this means the list of colleges is five, sometimes it’s eight. Sometimes, though not often, it’s many more.

Regardless of your number, here’s a few other things to consider:

Demonstrated Interest matters more now than it ever has.

Colleges are in the business of enrolling students and as the number of applications far exceeds the number of seats in an incoming class, it becomes critical for colleges to identify the students who are most likely to enroll. Visiting, interviewing, emailing and calling admission counselors, sitting in on a class, talking to a coach or faculty member – there are so many ways to demonstrate your interest to a school while you attempt to learn everything you can about it. Apply to too many schools and you may not be able to demonstrate your interest let alone put together quality applications.

Application fees add up quickly.

While some schools will hand out fee waivers for having visited their campus, most schools are charging application fees that can range anywhere from $25 to $80 or more. If you’re already wary of costs, racking up several hundred dollars in application fees is not going to help.

Diversity in a college list is a good thing; just don’t get caught up in the idea of reaches, matches and safeties.

I’ve seen it happen plenty of times – a student applies to a school as a safety despite not having any real interest in the school and then ends up having to enroll there due to lack of options or lack of financial resources. Other students apply to a school as a reach simply because the college is ranked highly on US News or Forbes but have no idea if they can afford the school or if the school is even a good fit for them. Schools should not be on your list simply because you think you will be admitted. Rather a school should be on your list because it fits your needs academically, socially and financially. Some schools will be harder to get into than others, but any school you apply to should be a school you love.

Ultimately, there will always be circumstances outside of your control so make peace with that idea and control what you can: which colleges you apply to and how sincere and genuine your interest is. You may not get in everywhere you apply, but if you conduct your college search the right way, you will get into and enroll at a college you love.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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What To Look For When Researching Colleges

Elon University

Elon University

With students applying to more colleges than ever before, it’s critical for them to know what it is they are most interested in before they begin the arduous work of filling out applications and writing supplemental essays. Obviously, things like geographic location, campus size, cost, and chances of admission are talked about frequently. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about some points students should be paying attention to that don’t always enter the conversation right away.

Look at the numbers

While admission rates and averages for GPA and test scores can provide valuable information that should factor in deciding whether you should apply to a college, there are other numbers which are just as important, if not more important. Pay attention to a college’s retention rate, the percentage of students who are in-state versus out-of-state, the make-up and diversity of the student body, the number of males to females, and how many students live on campus. You will find out very quickly that colleges are not created equal.


I beat the drum on this issue with my students because I just don’t want to ever see any of them graduate with excessive student loan debt. Start off by finding your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and then compare that number to how much assistance the college is likely to give you. For students who have a low EFC (will qualify for need-based aid), pay close attention to how much of your need a college meets. For students with a high EFC (will not qualify for need-based aid), pay attention to a college’s merit scholarship opportunities for high achieving students.

Explore Academic Programs
While you don’t necessarily need to know your major when you begin your college search, you should invest some time figuring out your VIPS. Knowing what you’re good at, what you’re interested in, what’s important to you and what your skills are can go a long way to helping you identify programs that will be better suited for you. So, whether you know your major or not, a few things you should focus on as you research your colleges include:

  1. Does the college have specific requirements outside the major or is there an open curriculum?
  2. If there are specific requirements, how extensive are they?
  3. Is there a first-year student program and, if so, what is it designed to help you with?
  4. If you know your major, are there core requirements you need to complete?
  5. If you don’t know you major, can you design your own?
  6. Who will be advising you? A professor from the department? A general advisor who advises all first-year students? A graduate assistant?
  7. Does the college (or the department of your major) require internships and, if so, do they help with securing internships?

All colleges have strengths and weaknesses and it’s up to you to find out how well a college fits your needs. So take the time to research schools, get to know them and determine for yourself which ones are the best ones for you.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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Things To Pay Attention To In Your College Search

As juniors are starting their college research and considering where they might apply next year, here are some questions they should be keeping in mind:

Are you familiar with your high school’s profile?

Your high school’s profile contains information regarding course leveling, ranking policy, grading, weighting (or not) for grades and averages for standardized test scores. The profile is important because it shows an admission counselor not only WHAT is offered at your high school but HOW well you have maximized the curriculum.

Does a college know that you’re interested?

It won’t matter everywhere (think Ivy League schools for instance), but a lot of colleges are tracking just how much you interact with them before you apply. In order to make sure your application isn’t the first time a college hears from you, here’ a few ideas on how to best demonstrate your interest:

  • Visit campus and attend an information session
  • Email or call the admission counselor for your high school with any questions
  • Connect with the college through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram
  • Talk to admission counselors at college fairs
  • Complete an interview if the college offers one

Do you know why you’re interested in the college?

One of the challenges I see seniors struggling with is the “Why Us” essays that a lot of the most selective colleges are asking applicants to complete. You can help yourself out now by identifying what it is about the school that gets you excited. Internships, interesting courses, amazing professors in your major, unique learning opportunities, exciting activities and sports, a new facility in your program – whatever it is, make a note of it so you can talk about it later.

How can you stand out?

Most colleges allow students to submit supplemental information whether it’s an art supplement, a graded paper, a writing portfolio, a science project or a resume.  These opportunities allow students to demonstrate their unique talents and interests to help them stand out in the application process. With nothing but time ahead of you, take stock of what you do in your spare time, how you can demonstrate it, and consider how it may affect your applications. Even as a pre-med student, your talent in drawing or painting may be of interest to colleges.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the most of your college search. Start now so you can take your time researching and visiting colleges and, of course, doing awesome in school. Above all else, colleges want to see that you’ve done very well in the most challenging courses available to you. Without strong grades, not a whole lot else matters.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, we can talk by phone, email or Skype.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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How A Diverse Campus Makes A Difference

college admissions, college, Dobler College ConsultingThis fall, I’m doing something different with my blog to spice it up a bit. I’ve invited several admission counselors from around the country to contribute posts about topics they feel high school students and their families should be paying more attention to as they go through the college search and application process. As much as I like to share tips and advice, why not get it straight from the horse’s mouth? 

Today’s post is the first in this series and it’s by Seth Babson Warner, an admissions counselor from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana:


Growing up in a homogeneous, Connecticut suburb, I didn’t understand why colleges touted their diversity. What makes that important? I hadn’t experienced much, and didn’t know what I was missing.

But at some level, I knew it was a good thing. During my third week of college, my soon-to-be best friend and I were discussing admissions. I said that “getting in” should be about scores and grades alone. He pointed out that this would mean a much less diverse student body. “So what?” I asked.

“Would you prefer a class entirely of white, upper-middle class kids with a 700 on their SAT Math, or a diverse class that averaged 690?”

He had me there. At least at some level, to some degree, I already knew that diversity added meaning to the college experience. I just didn’t know how.

Diversity works in two ways to make an experience meaningful. First, there needs to be a discussion. It’s hard enough to get people of different races, classes, and sexualities in the same room. But deliberately engaging those differences can be even tougher. Conflicting perspectives often ask one side or the other to make a sacrifice, which means students must challenge themselves to negotiate.

This brings us to the second step: resolution. You can’t gain from other perspectives if you just disagree and walk away. Even if you don’t see eye-to-eye, it’s necessary to acknowledge others’ perspectives, and incorporate them into your understanding of the world. That’s where diversity changes lives. You become wiser because you better understand others—an invaluable skill whether you’re a CEO, a baseball coach, or in the case of one Earlham student, a magazine publisher.

So, what should prospective students look for? As we mentioned, it’s not enough to have different types of people. You need to have the discussion, too.

I always advise students to find a school that is diverse and cohesive. It’s easy to be one of those two: cohesive because everyone’s alike, or diverse yet divided. Doing both is much harder, but a school that manages it is one where a big, meaningful learning experience is possible.

That was a large reason I chose to work at Earlham College and why many of our students come here. No school is perfect, of course, but Earlham does a good job with diversity and cohesiveness.

On one hand, U.S. News and World Report ranks us 5th for the largest percentage of international students in the country, and one-fifth of our students are non-white Americans. And in recent months, at least one publication ranked Earlham 13th nationally for the percentage of students who study abroad, fulfilling a mission of the College for our students to learn about the world experientially.

On the other, our Quaker roots encourage us to see the “teacher within” one another and to address and build consensus on “touchy” issues as much as possible.

In your college search, all the basic rules apply. Visit campus, take advantage of an overnight, and talk to current students when you can. But think about diversity. Depending on where you’re from, it might not be something you consider, but diversity can change and bring remarkable meaning to your college experience.

Seth Babson Warner is an admissions counselor at Earlham College, a member of Colleges That Change Lives. He is a Connecticut native who loves numbers and Mets baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @SW_ECAdmissions.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free 60-minute consultation. Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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Why Graduation Rates Should Matter To You

As I work with students on finalizing college lists, I teach them to look for factors that will help them identify the ones who are truly great fits.

One of those factors is graduation rates.

If a school’s graduation rates are low, let’s say less than 50%, that means that every other student isn’t graduating on time.

Of course, that would be the case if graduation rates were actually based on four years. You might be surprised to find out that when you see graduation rates quoted, what you are actually seeing is the percentage of students who graduate in six years, not four. If you can find the four year graduation rate, you will find that it’s even less than the six year rate.

You can read more about the historical context of graduation rates on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s College Completion website.

Ultimately, you have to pay close attention to these numbers. If a school is doing a poor job of graduating students in four years, a student could end up in a very costly situation.

So, look the numbers up and then ask admission counselors about them when you visit or meet them at a college fair. Find out what’s affecting graduation rates and decide for yourself if the reason for the lower rates is concerning. For example, some schools have lower four year graduation rates due to co-op programs. These programs, which are popular at schools like Northeastern University, Kettering University and Rochester Institute of Technology, require a student to mix in long-term, paid experiential opportunities which almost always push a student into a fifth year.

For some students, that’s a good reason to be in school for five years. Especially, if they really maximize the opportunity a co-op presents them to develop their resume and professional network if not land their first real job.

For other students, who haven’t done their homework and don’t know what they’re getting into, it could simply mean more student loan debt.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, especially help with identifying the right colleges for you, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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