What is college selectivity, and what does it mean for you?

As well as finishing off your senior coursework, filling out one or more college applications can be confusing. If you're still trying to come up with a list of colleges to apply to, you might want to consider using a college search engine. These websites can help you enter specific search terms to find colleges that match your desired major, location and type of institution. However, as you're trying to find the college for you, the term selectivity may come up in your search results. What is college selectivity, and what does it mean for you?

Selectivity is how college admissions officials assess the applications of potential candidates. The more selective a school is, the more criteria you have to fulfill in order to be considered for acceptance by college admissions officials. Some schools are more lenient than others, and some institutions are very demanding in terms of what they expect from their applicants.

How choosy a college may be is determined by several factors. Some establishments, such as community colleges, operate under what is known as open admission policies. This means that they only require a high school diploma as an entry qualification, and accept applicants on a first-come, first-serve basis. These institutions can be a great way to save money on tuition, as they're usually much cheaper than private schools. Attending these colleges can also be a good way to explore different majors, as they typically offer two- instead of four-year programs.

On the other end of the scale, you have prestigious, top-tier universities such as Harvard University in Massachusetts, Princeton University in New Jersey and Stanford University in California. These schools are famous for their selectivity, and their college admissions procedures reflect their desire to attract the very best candidates.

Although you shouldn't be deterred from applying to this type of school, you should expect fierce competition for admission. In other words, they are very selective. Many of these universities expect very high SAT scores, several solid letters of recommendation and a demonstrated interest in the school. Extracurricular activities and the strength of your college admission essay can be very important if you're applying to universities like this.

One way of finding out which colleges are within your reach in terms of selectivity is to use an academic matching tool in a college search engine. These tools allow you to search for colleges by matching your academic record with the college admissions requirements of universities. This could give you a better idea of which schools to apply to, or what you have to do in order to improve if you've set your sights a little higher. 

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