It’s that time of year again! Here are the steps I take to get my clients admitted into their top-choice college year after year. Remember, I have three goals for clients: graduate from college, in four years, with as little debt as possible. In that process, I also fulfill my other objective: creating a better student, not just a better applicant.

Create your college list.

This part can be a bit more tricky than it seems. You want to create a list of colleges that fit your social, financial, and academic needs. This could mean schools with History programs that you like, with great rates of law school acceptances, great rates of financial aid, and close enough to home for your family to not miss you too much, for example. But you also want to make sure that it is a place you have a high likelihood of being admitted, even when listing your reach schools. This is the part that is strategic, especially when trying to get a financial aid package that meets your needs.

I use a formula based on published information and how students have done in the past. And reviewing transcripts, test scores, and high school resume helps me to make suggestions about where a student might feel she fits. When thinking about most underrepresented groups, this is critical as students from underrepresented groups tend to drop out in their first year because they don’t feel they belong at that college. And then there are the numbers who simply can’t afford the financial packages they were given, something that is less likely to happen at colleges that are better financial fits from the onset.

I will discuss how to determine this fit at my workshop on May 28. And here is another post about how yields impact school choice.