Which Academic Programs to Consider? – GradPlan

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Which Academic Programs to Consider?

Find the program that most aligns with your interests, needs and aspirations.

Building Your List

Regardless of if you choose a 2-Year or 4-Year program, finding a college that matches your academic profile will set you up for success. In order to understand if a college matches your academic profile, you’ll need to consider:


How do my test scores and cumulative GPA compare to the average grade point average (GPA) & standardized test scores (SAT, or ACT) of admitted students?

Subjects of Study

What programs of study or majors, minors, and concentrations are offered?
Do they match my interests?


What are the overall graduation rates of the institution?
(Especially for students who share my identities -race, first-generation college student etc.)

Why look at Graduation Rates?

Graduation rates may indicate how well a college or university supports their students through their academic journey. A higher rate implies they have a lot of resources to help you along the way. Beware! Graduation rates do not always tell the whole story. If you already have some colleges in mind, you can find their application stats here, or on the college’s individual website, under “Prospective Students.”

Tip! Schools will often publish the graduation rates for all students and the graduation rates of students-of-color. Take time to compare the two. If there is a large difference between the numbers, that college may need to improve their support for minority students on campus.

Matching, Overmatching,
and Undermatching…
What does it mean?

Once you have some colleges in mind, you can compare your interests and scores with the programs offered by those schools and the average scores of their admitted students to help you determine if it’s an undermatch, an overmatch or a match.


Your GPA and/or test scores are above the average scores of students who are admitted there.

These are often called your
Safety Schools.


Your GPA and/or test scores are the same as the average scores of students who are admitted there.

These are often called your
Target Schools.


Your GPA and/or test scores are above the average scores of students who are admitted there.

These are often called your
Reach Schools.

Why does Academic Match Matter?

Attending a school that is an academic match increases your likelihood of having a meaningful learning experience. When you attend an academic match, your academic history suggests you’ll be able to successfully complete the level of coursework offered at that school. But don’t forget, college-level classes are often a big adjustment for any student, even if they’re at an academic match, so don’t be surprised if you’re challenged. That challenge means you’re growing. Use your resources and you will find success!

Tip!  Don’t be afraid to look at Overmatch schools! Data has shown that attending an Overmatch school increases your chances of graduating and future employment opportunities. You can rise to the challenge!

In order to increase your likelihood of being accepted to schools that are a strong academic match, create a balanced list of schools to apply to.
A balanced list includes:

Undermatch School
Match School
Overmatch School

How do I Decide Where to Apply?

As you start to look at specific colleges, think about how well they match with your academic profile and your personal interests.

Make sure you have a balance of undermatch, match, and overmatch schools.

Look up the types of majors that the school offers and see if they have enough options that give you energy and match your career interests.

Do some research to see if the degree and program offerings will lead to the kind of salary and pay you are looking for.

 Tip! These researchers recently calculated the return on investment of over 30,000 bachelor’s degrees across America. Look up the degree and college you are interested in to see if the degree is paying off for those graduates.

Recommended Resources


Things to Consider

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X, human rights activist