Which Ones Make the Cut?

What do seniors look for when building their college lists?


Most students apply to their schools through the Common Application.

The sleep-deprived seniors walking like zombies down the hallways. The smell of anxiety and a hint of Victoria’s Secret perfume wafting through the quiet room and out into the library. The occasional, guttural groan when Common App crashes for the fifth time in one day. There are only three words that can explain this annual state of chaos: early application deadlines.

Each senior has his or her own checklist while searching for colleges. Factors like demographics, study options, location, price, and reputation are only a few of the possible things to search for. Since the majority of students plan to attend college more or less for 2-8 years, the process can become stressful over whether or not they are choosing the right schools. With that in mind, the criteria for the ideal college varies by each student.

Senior Jacqueline Kim listed the most important aspects in her college search as “size, atmosphere, teacher-student relationship, and medical programs.” The other defining point is location since she does not “want to be too close [to home], but I want to be able to visit and take care of my dog.”

Kim is not the only student who is prioritizing location when choosing schools. Senior Nicole Love wants to “stay close for job opportunities in the tri-state area,” and is also looking for “academic rigor, diversity, and a large rural campus.” Additionally, Love is considering the pre-professional programs for each of her schools. She added, “My ideal major is English, and I want to go to law school.” While there are those who look for a major in college with the goal of studying it further than a high school level, others have not decided on what they want to do yet and have no problem with the idea of switching their major a few times in the process.

Guidance counselor Laura Cavanaugh said, “Some kids develop their interests while they’re in high school and they want to pursue those interests more before choosing [a school].” For the students who go into college already knowing what they want to do, she explained, “Usually they have had some experiences in high school–an internship, job shadowing or some kind of family connection with a career interest–that somehow sparked their interest in that area.”

School cost might carry the most weight in the application process—this goes especially for ED students. Senior Evin Jacob said that for him “price is a little iffy because I don’t want to make my parents pay for all of that,” but if it ultimately comes down to that decision, he will “have to take out a loan.” 

Kim, however, believes that “reputation matters more than price” and further explained by saying, “I don’t want to think too much about price before I choose my school.”

Lead Counselor Kerri Hubbard said, “Every student has a unique approach to the college search.” Between price and reputation, she explained that it is “based on the needs of the family.”

The chaos of applications lasts until November 1 and 15 (depending on the school), and students will finally be able to breathe again… that is, until regular application deadlines. The beginning of 2020 will re-welcome the trauma that goes hand-in-hand with the college process: stress, tears, and sleep deprivation.