Choosing the right college can make the difference between academic success and failure. With so many colleges to choose from, students need a systematic approach for applying to colleges. The first, second and third tier college comparison provides such an approach. Creating a list of criteria and engaging in comprehensive research makes this system work.
The Tiered Comparison
The tiered comparison of colleges allows students to group colleges together based upon common criteria. First-tier colleges are the ones that will be hardest for the student to get into, the so-called "reach schools." Third-tier colleges are the ones that the student is sure to get into, the "safety schools." Second-tier colleges are somewhere in between first and third. The application of the tiered comparison is the final step in the systematic approach to narrowing the number of college applications.
Many colleges can be eliminated on the basis of student goals and desires. For example, only a certain number of colleges will offer the program desired by the student. Students should create a list of the desirable criteria for their college. Factors to consider including are: size, location (distance from home), setting (urban or rural), student to faculty ratio, and student life, including activities and student support services. Students should rate the criteria in order of their importance to them.
Finding out which colleges meet the students' list of criteria requires research. Searching online may be the first step to eliminating many colleges, but for others, the student may need to contact the school for information. Once the list of colleges is further narrowed, students should visit the college campuses to get a full picture for comparative purposes. Students should carefully review the admission requirements for each of the remaining institutions. Talking to existing students and to college advisers can give the student insight into things the college wants to see in its applicants.
Narrowing Down the List
The criteria selection and research process generates a list of remaining colleges to which to apply the tiered system. Students should take a realistic approach to categorizing these colleges, based on the research done. For example, if the student learned a particular college wants its applicants to have extensive volunteer experience and the student has no experience, the college should be eliminated based on the tiered approach. If the college is looking for some volunteer experience and the student does have some, then depending upon other factors, the school would be placed in one of the tiers.
Placement in the Tiers
Colleges should be placed in the first tier if admission is highly competitive, particularly if the student just meets, instead of exceeds, all admission requirements. Less competitive colleges should be placed in the second tier if the student exceeds all admission requirements. The least competitive colleges are placed in the third tier if the student meets all admission requirements. A realistic application of the tiered approach should generate a list of colleges in all three tiers. Applications are then submitted to the colleges on the list.
Carol Strider is a writer and a post-secondary educator in law and criminal justice, teaching in person and online since 2002. Prior to teaching, Strider was a lawyer at a community law office. Strider holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Arts, a diploma in adult education and a diploma in animal sciences.