Finding the College of Your Dreams in Three Easy Steps

Step 1. Go to sleep. Warm milk before bed sometimes helps with this. Also, running a half marathon.

Step 2. Dream about colleges. This part is trickier, since dreams stay mostly outside our control. One way to narrow the field of dreams is to watch films* on the subject. College, that is, not Field of Dreams.

Step 3. Wake up, then learn more about these colleges with the updated NWEA College Explorer tool!

Finding the College of Your Dreams in Three Easy StepsIt is this last step that I would like to focus on, because the tool includes some enhanced search functions, along with the most up-to-date statistics on colleges and universities from the U.S. Dept. of Education. The NWEA College Explorer tool lets the user identify schools across the U.S. that might be a good fit, based on a range of Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) reading and math scores.

For example, imagine that an 8th grade student named Marcus took the MAP reading and math tests in the fall, scoring 238 in reading and 240 in math. Marcus could enter those scores into the “Search by RIT Score” tab to find colleges or universities that might be a good fit. Entering ranges around those scores (e.g., 230-245) into the tool narrows the list to about 60-80 colleges and universities across the country. Marcus could refine that list further by focusing on specific states or schools with a specific focus. For example, imagine Marcus is interested in schools with a religious affiliation located in the southeastern United States. Entering those additional parameters into the tool, his initial list of 60-80 schools is now reduced to about twelve, giving him a more targeted pool of schools.

Marcus is now ready to research these schools in greater detail, reviewing their academic profiles to learn about popular majors, admissions and graduation rates, information on tuition and student loans, and even average post-graduation incomes. Using the tool, Marcus now has a manageable list of schools with a good sense of whether those schools might be a good fit for him. Not bad for a few minutes of work!

Imagine another student, a 7th grader named Nicole, who has her heart set on a specific college. Perhaps she dreams of being a Cornhusker. The newly updated NWEA College Explorer tool now allows Nicole to search for the University of Nebraska without entering any specific MAP scores. Nicole will simply go to the “Search for School” tab, enter “University of Nebraska” into the search field, and the map will zero in on the four University of Nebraska campuses – Kearney, Lincoln, Omaha, and the medical school. If she selects the Lincoln campus on the map, she can now view the academic profile for that school (majors, admissions rates, etc.), along with a set of MAP score benchmarks in grades five through nine (and soon, grade ten) that would be consistent with the scores of students who go there. Nicole can then use these MAP score benchmarks to establish performance goals throughout her middle school and early high school years.

We designed the NWEA College Explorer to make it easy for students, parents, guidance counselors, and others not to just dream about college, but to find colleges and universities that might be a good match for any student with valid MAP scores. We hope that the expanded search functions and additional benchmark information will make it even more useful. But regardless of what college you aspire to, remember the words of Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

*Note: some of my favorite college films include, “Animal House”, “Real Genius”, and “Revenge of the Nerds” because of their spot-on portrayals of college life. If you have the time, though, you should watch Field of Dreams, too — it’s terrific!