Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
  • Stanford University
  • Princeton University

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    International Office Director

First-Choice Colleges: Overall Quality

Fred Hargadon -

college admissions expert advice from While it’s not unusual for students to talk of their “first choice” college, I think it’s a rare individual for whom it can be said that there exists but a single, best college. Even if, as the result of the research you do on colleges, you arrive at a point where you accord enough preference to one college to consider it your “first choice,” your final list ought to include several of colleges, any one of which you’d be happy to attend if admitted. Keep in mind that most students end up very much liking the colleges they attend, regardless of whether they had been their “first choices” when they applied.

It’s also a good idea to focus at least as much attention on the overall quality of a college as on the quality of the particular department or academic area. Experience indicates that a fair number of students ultimately major in academic areas other than the ones they had in mind when entering college. This happens for any number of reasons. Some students simply find that the more they learn about what is involved in studying particular subjects, the less appealing and/or satisfying they become. Some find different, but closely related, fields more to their liking. More often, it happens that it is only after they get to college that students become familiar with other fields of study, and subsequently find themselves more attracted to them than to those that seemed appealing freshman year. The point is that you will want to take into account the possibility of a change in your own interests while you are going through college, and you, therefore, ought to feel reasonably confident that each of the colleges to which you are applying will offer you an excellent education across the board.

My next post will discuss the “perfect” college.

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