The Journalist’s Approach to College Admissions: 5 ‘W’s’ and an ‘H’ for Less Stress and More Success

With more than 3,000 colleges and universities across the country all vying to attract applicants, you know they’re putting their best foot forward in wanting you to see why their school is the best fit for you. Yet at the same time, it can feel like one little misstep in the application process will automatically result in rejection. In reality, though, just the opposite is true – and with very few exceptions: colleges want reasons to send you an offer of admission!

That in mind, it makes sense that if you’ve built your target list the right way you should have your pick of any number of fantastic colleges to attend. The question, then, is how to build that list. How do you strike the right balance between “safety,” “target,” and “reach” schools? Beyond just the numbers – where your GPA and SAT/ACT scores put you in range – how do you know where to apply? You’re going to spend the next four or more years of your life at one of these schools; will you be happy there? And will you graduate set up for success in what you want to do? What if you don’t know what that is? (And at this stage, that’s perfectly normal.)

If it’s an overwhelming process to even start researching schools, think about setting aggressive, but realistic, goals based on a few key questions.  For anyone who took journalism courses “back in the day,” you’ll recognize the 5 Ws and an H – WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW:

WHO do you want to be on campus?  A big fish in a small pond, or part of a large, vibrant community?  Do you like the personal attention in smaller classes, or can you succeed as one among many in large lecture halls?  How much personal attention do you want, or need, to have from advisors, faculty and staff?

WHAT do you want to be when you graduate?  Not a specific job title, necessarily, but in more general terms.

WHY do you want to be that?  Salaries, potential for growth, personal fulfillment – these are all valid reasons for being interested in a particular major.  Or if you’re undecided, they can start pointing you towards something more specific.

WHEN do you want to graduate?  Certificate, Associate Degree, Bachelors, and higher-level credentials all have pluses and minuses to them.

WHERE would you like to be, geographically?

HOW do you want to pay for your education?  Or, HOW much debt are you comfortable committing to when you graduate?

It’s important, too, to note that “reach” schools don’t have to equal Ivy League, and “top-choice” might also mean “safety schools”: if you have your heart set on a particular college and your grades and test scores put you well within their range, let that be your #1 target.  Not your only target, of course, but never feel like you’re “settling” if you’ve truly found the place you want to call home for the next four years!

One2One was created for this very purpose – to help students and families figure out what “home” is for every applicant. Through caring, focused, personalized attention, students are coached through identifying and applying to those schools where our experienced counselors know they’ll thrive. Finding the right mix of ingredients is critical, but put One2One’s years of experience to work for you and you’ll find the process gets a lot more enjoyable!

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