Thursday, December 8, 2016

Before moving forward, consider your back-up!

Before moving forward, consider your back-up!
When students begin to compile the list of colleges which they will apply to, it’s important to put focused thought and effort into choosing a back-up or “safety” school. This begs the question, “What exactly is a safety school?”
I like to use a three-pronged approach to deciding if a college should be considered a good back-up or safety school.
1)     Acceptability - When looking at a school’s requirements for admission, you can see that you not only meet them, but exceed each one. For example the college might require scores on the SAT that are in the 1100 range, but yours approach 1400. They ask for 3 years of high school science preparation and you have 4, plus you’re enrolled in and excelling in a college science course while a high school student. When meeting with students I often joke that this prong should be called the Jimmy Neutron prong, as in the college would consider you among their top students when looking at your application. For many students the local community college is a viable option to fulfill this criterion – but not for all (see #3, below).
2)     Affordability – While I understand, on a deep and personal level, that college is just plain expensive, a safety or back-up school’s cost should be at a level that you can afford. Putting together student loans, grants and scholarships, savings and/or gifts, and even a college-sponsored payment plan, you can manage the bill for this school.
3)     Affability – (admittedly named as such to have a tidy 3-pronged list) This is a school you would be happy attending. You like the campus, the location, the clubs and athletics, and the majors offered. If your heart’s desire is to live on campus then many community colleges become disqualified at prong 3 because they may not offer on-campus dormitories.
Measuring colleges against all three of these considerations takes some time and effort. I might suggest that you should put in more work pursuing a clear back-up school than any other school on your list – it might turn out to be your home for at least a year therefore you should be as sure as you can be that you’ll be successful at it, able to afford it, and, of course, happy with it!