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How to Get Into a Good College

Graduating students throw their caps into the air

Choosing which college you want to attend can be incredibly exciting. There are over 4000 four-year colleges and another 1900 community colleges in the United States. With so many options, making sure you apply (and then get accepted) to a good college can turn your excitement into stress. 

The good news is that you can do some easy things to make yourself more competitive and increase your chances of acceptance into the school of your dreams. We'll cover them in this piece, but first, it's essential that we discuss the idea of a "good college."

What is a Good College? 

Getting into a "good college" is more about finding the right fit for you than about whether the college is "good" or not. Because "good" is subjective and means different based on each student's needs. 

In general, a right fit, or good, college aligns with your academic, personal, and professional goals while offering a supportive environment for your growth. Ideally, it should provide a range of high-quality academic programs and resources that align with your interests and aspirations.

As you search for a college, consider factors such as the school's location, campus culture, available support services, and the potential for you to flourish within the academic community. It's crucial to find a college where you feel challenged, inspired, and empowered to achieve your full academic and personal potential.

From there, once you select your college, you'll need to apply yourself and make the most of your college experience.

Tips for Getting into a Good College

Now that we've covered the topic of "good colleges," we'll tell you how to increase your chances of being admitted to the college you choose.

Pay Attention to Your GPA

What is a good GPA to get into college? That depends on several factors.

Nationally, the average unweighted high school GPA for all students is about a 3.0, which is a B average. The average high school GPA for college-bound students, if measured, would likely be higher than a 3.0. 

A 3.5-4.0 GPA, which means an A- or A average, is expected for admission to top colleges. However, you may be able to gain acceptance to a less selective school with a GPA that's as low as a 2.0 or C- average. Since every school is different, a 3.7 GPA at one school could look better to admissions officers than a 4.0 GPA at another. If your GPA isn't perfect, but you are attending a highly competitive high school with a rigorous course curriculum, a lower GPA might beat a higher one from a high school with easy classes.

How do you decide whether your GPA is suitable based on your college plans? Look at the average GPA for incoming freshmen at the colleges you are considering. You can gauge how your GPA lines up with those accepted. Remember, of course, that this statistic isn't set in stone. It's simply a guideline to shoot for. Some students with lower GPAs are accepted, and some with higher GPAs could be rejected.

You can find the GPA and admission rates within our college database. Compare your GPA to the average GPA of admitted students. The goal is for you to be at the top of the applicant pool. A GPA above the average for admitted students will not only improve your chances of admittance but could also mean a generous merit-aid scholarship from the college.

Find & Apply to the Best Fit Colleges

Applying to colleges that fit your interests and academic abilities will increase your chances of getting accepted. But this process starts with making a well-balanced college list. 

A smart college list should have three "fit" criteria: financial fit, academic fit, and emotional fit.

  • Financial Fit—Does the college's cost fit your family's budget? Can you pay for it if you don't receive any financial aid? Look for colleges you can afford without taking out too much debt.
  • Academic Fit—Does the college fit into your academic aspirations? Does the college offer the program of study you are interested in pursuing? Also, there are other academic factors to consider. For instance, are you seeking smaller class sizes and strong relationships with professors? A larger university won't offer this.
  • Emotional fit—Can you see yourself attending college there? When you visited the campus, did it "feel" right, and did you have a rapport with the students you came in contact with? Was there support on campus for your physical and mental health and wellness? If you don't fit into the school's social climate, you will be miserable.

Where do you fit in? Are you positioned well with the other applicants, especially if you are looking for merit aid? Are your scores, grades, and achievements good enough to put you at the top of the applicant pool?

Consider Applying Early

Colleges often offer you the option to apply early. Applying early can increase your chances of admission, but it's essential to understand the options and determine which is best for you.

Early Decision

If you apply Early Decision, your college application will be at the top of the stack and will precede regular decision applicants, giving you an early advantage. Early Decision students often have a significant admission advantage at many colleges. You can check out how much of an advantage by visiting the college's page on the College Data website.

The downside to applying Early Decision is financial. Parents and students will not have the option to compare financial aid packages from multiple colleges. Early Decision applicants could miss out on scholarship and merit aid opportunities at other colleges. Applying Early Decision doesn't assure a generous financial aid package – and the decision is binding.

Early Action

Colleges that offer this option promise a quick response if you submit a completed application by their early deadline. Students admitted Early Action don't have to promise to attend the college; they just want to hear back sooner than usual. Students can apply as EA candidates to several colleges at the same time.

Applying Early Action would be a good choice if you need financial aid and want to keep your options open. Since none of these acceptances are binding, you will have time to compare financial aid offers before the May 1 decision deadline. 

Use College Statistics to Make Smart Application Decisions

Why statistics? Statistics will help you determine some critical factors in choosing a college. Using statistics, you can see which colleges will increase your odds of being accepted, receiving more financial aid, and graduating on time. You can also determine the class sizes, the freshman retention rate, and the odds of finding a job after graduation. These statistics help you position yourself at the top of any college's applicant pool.

You can also look up the average GPA of admitted students and the percentages of early decision and early action admissions. You can find these statistics on our college profile pages. Numbers aren't everything, but they can help you position yourself to increase your admissions chances.

Use Cappex to Get Into a Good College

Beyond our extensive college database, you'll find tools like our chances calculator tool. With it, you can calculate your chances of being admitted into any college using your academic information, like your GPA and test scores. This will estimate how likely you are to be accepted so you can build a balanced college list and make smart application decisions. 

Click the button below to get started. It's always free and easy.

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