Any favorite sites for researching schools?

For the pro perspective, go where for $20 you can get online access to the Fiske Guide to Colleges, which is pretty much the go-to guide for college research (#1 on Amazon). This $20 is optional but totally worth it. And the reason this post will save you $3,480 instead of $3,500.

For the student perspective, go to unigo.com where you can read real students’ opinions on their schools. But don’t just read 1-2 reviews, read a bunch of them, in particular the “What’s the stereotype of students at your school” and “Is the stereotype true?” You’ll get a sense of the school vibe pretty quickly.

How many schools should I apply to?

Pick nine schools. Why nine? Because nine allows you to pick three of each of these:

Keep searching and researching until you’re in love with all nine – yes, even the “match” schools where you’ll likely get in. (Bonus tip: If you’re applying to the University of California schools, count them as one, since the application and essays will be the same for all of them.)

How do I know my chances of getting in?

You can find the general acceptance rates on lots of sites, but I recommend that you use parchment.com to find out what your real chances are.

Why Parchment? Because you can enter more specific info on yourself: in addition to GPA and test scores, you can also add extra info–extracurriculars, leadership, hardship–basically details that will give you a slightly more accurate sense of how you compare. How much more accurate? It’s tough to say, but it will give you at least a sense of whether the school is a reach, maybe, or match.

Why trust Parchment? Because it’s the transcript-sending service for many thousands of students–both when they’re sending the initial transcripts and when they send the final transcript, confirming students’ acceptance–so the site actually knows a.) that students are reporting grades correctly and b.) who was actually accepted where.