SERF Sudbury

You Choose Before Colleges Do

Many students hear from colleges in March. Some applicants will be thrilled with what they find in their portals while others will be devastated. The college application process becomes increasingly selective every year. However, there is a secret to navigating this process that many students forget: YOU CHOOSE FIRST. You pick which schools go on your lists. You decide which schools to explore. You determine which schools to visit (virtually and in person). YOU HAVE ALL THE POWER FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS. Until you hit “submit”, you absolutely control the entire process.


And, yet, colleges and universities spend millions of dollars on marketing to try to capture your attention. Instead of allowing selective colleges to entice you with their glossy pamphlets and their interactive emails, why not make your own decisions? Take an honest self-survey about how you enjoy learning, what kinds of academic offerings will work best for you, and what social or extracurricular opportunities interest you most. You get to decide what schools are worthy of your application, so make educated choices. Never rely just on the name brand or reputation of a school; do the research. Find schools that offer what you want and also value what you bring to the table. Build a balanced list of colleges that are all a great FIT for you – some should be less selective and others might be more selective – but they should all offer what you want to experience during college. 


You must take the time to figure out what you want. Empower yourself through finding schools that are a great match for your strengths. Politely decline the invitations that appear in the form of flashy emails and beautiful mailings from the most selective colleges. Don’t choose a college by focusing on perceived prestige or the bumper sticker. Instead, decide if you want interdisciplinary flexibility or a structured curriculum; explore the communities that form in living/learning communities or themed housing; research community engagement and club sports. Only you can decide which colleges are the best fit for you: please make that choice before checking your portal on decision day.


Stephanie Lapat, of CuratedU College Consulting, studied English and American Literature at Harvard University, graduating cum laude before teaching English abroad on a Harvard fellowship. She returned to Harvard to earn her M.Ed. and Teaching Certification. Stephanie taught in both public and private schools while completing an MA from Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English. Stephanie transitioned from teaching to full-time tutoring, preparing students for the SAT, ACT, and their college applications. As she edited essays and helped her students fill in their applications, she realized she wanted to support her students with more of the college search and application process. Stephanie completed the Independent Educational Consultant Certification Program and received the UC Irvine Division of Continuing Education’s Student Achievement Award in recognition of her commitment to her profession and continued lifelong learning.