Narrowing Down College List Advice + Suggestions

I am a rising senior in the early stages of my college application process. Currently, there are 13 schools on my list including 5 Reaches, 3 Matches, and 3 safeties. There are two other schools that I am interested in adding to this list, one being a safety, and the other being a reach.

I want to decrease this list, but I am also applying to BS/MD programs and merit scholarships, and these programs come from each category, so taking away a school could mean taking away from a match, safety, or reach school alike. I cannot apply to all because the total fees would be almost $930+ just for application fees, not including sending scores. Also, I am looking for the best financial aid deal through means of scholarships and also a great pre-med track and Public Health major/concentration at the school.

I understand it is a possibility I might not end up applying to all these schools anyhow because they all have different deadlines and I could hear back from them at different times, however, several of the schools require a fully committed application process because in addition to getting accepted to the merit scholarship or specific program, they require an extensive interview process and the scholarship is not awarded until you get to the finalist stage.

What should I do?

Also, yes, I am interested in these schools beyond their BS/MD programs; I would still attend if I was not accepted into the program if it was the best deal. Despite applying to competitive programs, I am really not super interested in prestige. I am interested in something that would accommodate me financially and support me professionally.

Your best deal may be your state flagship…what school is that and is it affordable? Are your 3 safety schools all affordable?

What can/will your family pay for school each year?

Students looking for merit tend to apply to more schools than average. BS/MD applicants tend to apply to many schools due to the highly selective nature of most of those programs (single digit acceptance rates).

Regarding application fees, do you qualify for ACT/SAT test waivers (typically based on qualifying for free or reduced lunch at your HS)?

Other ways applicants can sometimes receive an application free waiver code:
-Sign up for the school’s email list
-Attend a virtual admissions session, or other virtual programming
-Call the admissions office and ask

Before you send official test scores, check to see if each school on your list allows self-reporting of scores (many do), it can save you a lot of money. BS/MD programs are more likely to require official scores, but still check.

Make sure to run the net price calculators for each of the school’s on your list…you do not want to apply to school’s that are unlikely to be affordable. Note the net price calculators may not be accurate if your parents are divorced, own a business, or own real estate beyond a primary home. Are any of those the case for your situation?

As far as the application fees go, I recommend trying to get a fee waiver if you qualify financially. If you don’t qualify, I recommend doing online information sessions and/or virutal tours for all your schools and sometimes they will email you afterwards and give you a code to waive the application fee. I also suggest that you sign up for the schools email list (as mentioned above). Also, go in your email and do a search for something along the lines of “fee waiver” or “free”. You may be surprised at the number of schools that sent you a generic email and at the end they offer to waive you application fee (it is sometimes in very small writing). Personally, I do not financially qualify for a fee waiver but I have been able to get them for about 6 of my schools so far by checking by email and participating in virutal events. Good luck!

Also, are your safeties actually safeties? Many students, especially those with high GPA and test scores, use one of the online calculators which “calculate chances” based on these two factors. This produces highly inflated chances for colleges with low acceptance rates and holistic admissions processes, as well as for colleges with different rate for in-state and out of state applicants - it will often underestimate chances for in state applicants at colleges like UVA, UT Austin, or UNC (for example, if a student is a Texas resident and is in the top 6% of their graduating class, UT Austin is a safety, while for an OOS applicant with the same stats, UT Austin could be a reach).

The best tool for figuring out your safeties is your high school’s Naviance.

My safeties are UMD - Baltimore County, UPittsburgh, and Wayne State University. UMD - College Park is a safety/match cause recently they’ve been randomly more selective (great in state candidates from my school got rejected) but I think they could be a safety for me. I selected these as safeties for various reasons and I did not use a calculator or Naviance.

Thank you so much for this advice! I had no idea.