You Can’t Write College Application Essays Unless You Know Where You’re Applying: Here’s Help

A kite I saw flying one recent day in NYC.

I don’t need to tell anyone reading this post that this is a spring for high school juniors unlike any other. Instead of being in school, you’re home, taking classes online. Instead of playing sports, maybe you’re playing ping pong with your siblings. Instead of visiting with your friends, you’re … well, wondering how long this #StayHome stuff is going to last. The rest of us are too.

And one thing you’re not doing is making visits to colleges, to check out which ones you might want to apply to in the fall.

Since you can’t visit colleges, here are 2 great resources for learning about colleges in the meantime:

College Niche is a free website listing all high schools AND colleges in the U.S. and each page publishes extensive information about admissions figures, requirements, costs, 10 most popular majors, and — best of all – REVIEWS, often from hundreds of students, broken down by different aspects of the college experience. You can also enter your GPA and test scores and see a scattergram of your chances of admission.

You can search by college name or by state. The REVIEWS are at the bottom of the page, and there is a DROP-DOWN MENU to the LEFT that allows you see reviews by category. — see the arrow below. When you read reviews, read several dozen, not 2 or 3, so you get a wider view.


My other recommendation is the series of guidebooks published by Princeton Review, called The Best 385 Colleges — though the number goes up 1 or 2 every year.

The book, easily available at many Barnes and Noble branches, and online from BN and AMAZON, and the publisher’s own site, Best 385 Colleges, has lots of quirky “best lists” in front, but the heart of the book are 2-page overviews of these 385 “best colleges.”

You can also get plenty of information on rankings and much more on their site.

If you go for the book itself, the 2-page overviews offer great information in the text and sidebars. You can read about what’s important in admissions, student comments, the vibe, the study scene, the most popular majors, and — my favorite — ratings in the lefthand sidebar for PROFESSOR INTERESTING RATING and PROFESSOR ACCESSIBLE RATING. For example, for PENN STATE, those numbers are 81 and 84.  For HARVARD, 61 and 61, and for HARVEY MUDD 98 and 99. In case you want to know whether you’re likely to have much of a relationship with your professors.

If you consult these sources and are still interested in consultations by the hour for potential colleges and universities for you or high school junior, please email at ~

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