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SA Homeschooler
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US News is not a bad place to start if you want to get oriented. I prefer CollegeData's search tool. It's more flexible and there is more detail on the colleges than presented in US News free portion. One nice feature of CollegeData is the College Overlap button. Once you have selected a particular college, click on the College Overlap button  in the upper right hand corner to the right of the college name and it will show you other colleges that tend to attract the same kind of students.

 

Also, check out the resources on the What are your favorite resources for researching colleges? thread.

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That is a can of worms question. ;) There so many factors determining college selection that it isn't really that simple for most people (or even necessary from other's perspectives :) ).

 

Finances, student ability, major desired, resume strength (extracurriculars), etc really should be your main primary filters.

 

For example, student A has a 4.0 GPA with a transcript including all rigorous and advanced courses. His test scores place him in the top 1-2% of students nationally. As a homeschooled student, he has also taken at least 3 subject tests and scored above 700 on all of them. He has strong leadership roles/activity within his community. His parents can afford to pay their expected familial contribution based on net price calculators. Student A's school list might start with ranking (which might include schools with very low acceptance rates) and then move down in ranking to add less competitive admission schools to ensure admission options.

 

Student B has a similar profile except his parents cannot afford their EFC. His search might focus on merit scholarships. He searches for schools where his stats place him in the top quartile of stats at those schools. (Search for admissions stats on collegedata.com as a simple place to start.) He drops down in ranking for other competitive scholarships at lower ranked schools.

 

Student C takes strong courses, but not the most challenging according to tippy top competitive schools. Math is ending at cal AB. They have 2-3 APs or equivalent. Their test scores are in the 95% and their subject test scores are in the mid-600s. Their outside activities are pretty avg. Here ranking might help them figure out whether they fit in the upper quartile in stats bc that makes admission more likely, especially when their ECs are avg.

 

Student D is similar to student C except they need merit. This student needs to step down lower than student C bc large merit $$ is extremely competitive. They should apply to a couple of schools that offer merit like student C applies to as reaches, but to ensure large merit, they need to apply lower bc large competitive merit can be more competitive than top school admissions.

 

It really is student and family dependent. None of my kids have applied to overlapping schools bc their backgrounds and interests (majors, which I didn't address) are very different. My kids have to have large merit scholarships or their options are limited. My #4 & #5 kids are very strong academic students who stepped down in rankings and both have/will attend on full merit scholarship. We cannot come close to paying our EFC, so merit mattered a lot.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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I won't say rankings are useless, but they do average together a lot of variables, many of which may be of no importance to your particular situation.

 

It's best if you can identify the variables that are important to you first, before you begin searching.

 

Things like:

1. Affordable (won't add on to 8's great post on that)

2. Admissions likely, given your SAT or ACT score

3. Major(s) of interest

4. Region of the country

 

Other variables might be public/private/religious schools, sports (as fan or team member), activities he wants to try in college or continue from high school

 

Some worksheets to get you thinking about some of the non-obvious variables are:

 

http://schoolbuff.com/qualities.asp

http://schoolbuff.com/values-assessment.asp

 

Once you have your variables, check out the search engine post pinned at the top of the forum.

Edited by JanetC
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