Planning for college can seem like a complicated process. Perhaps you’re set on a specific STEM-related major. Maybe you only have a general idea of what STEM field you want to pursue. Regardless, making sure you plan ahead is the key to getting into the right program for you. With advanced planning, you’ll be able to make good decisions when it comes to deciding what to study, what colleges to apply to, and even how to minimize your out-of-pocket costs as much as possible.

Cappex can help you at any stage of the journey you might be at —from researching college, paying for college, and everything in between. In this blog, they’ll lay out five steps to take to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success in your college journey.

1. Choose your major

What should I major in? It’s one of the biggest questions for prospective college students —and many current college students —for good reason. Choosing your major is one of the first and most important steps to choosing your career. Your major is your key to certain careers and post-college pursuits, but it can also direct you away from other paths.

Not sure what to major in? Take Cappex’s majors quiz to see how your interests and personality align with an area of study. Even if you know STEM is right for you, consider double majoring so you can explore other types of career paths.

Either way, it’s best to know which colleges offer that area of study before you choose to go there. By narrowing down a few majors, you can even look for colleges that excel at the programs you’re considering.

2. Research colleges

Once you have a general idea about what you want to major in, now it’s time to research colleges and build a college list. Not only do you want your ideal school to offer the major you’re considering, but also you want to be happy there. Start thinking about your college preferences as you explore. How far from home do you want to be? How many students does your ideal institution have? How about the campus setting —urban, suburban, or rural? Start thinking about what’s right for you.

Once you brainstorm your preferences, take this college match quiz. We'll find colleges that match what you're looking for. We’ll even match you with colleges that are interested in you based on the types of students they’re looking for (GPA, test scores, location, etc.).

3. See where you stand when applying

Before you plan on applying, you’ll want to make sure you have a balanced list of colleges that fall into the target, reach, and likely categories. This will help determine how likely you are to get admitted. Knowing where you stand beforehand will help set up your expectations during application season.

What are likely, target, and reach schools?

Likely, Target, and Reach are just terms we use to describe the three types of schools all students should be applying to. There’s no definitive list of these colleges and universities because they vary per student —they’re based entirely around you and your academic standing.

Likely schools are colleges that you have a very strong (or “likely”) chance of getting into. They should check off all of your other boxes (size, location, degree offering), but consistently accept students with GPAs and test scores below yours.

Target schools are colleges and universities that are right on the money —they fit your GPA and standardized test scores on the money. While chances of being accepted are good, there’s still the possibility of being waitlisted or denied, especially the more competitive a school is.

Reach schools are institutions that more commonly accept students with higher GPAs or standardized test scores. Notably, these schools are not “out of your academic range,” but rather at the very top of it.

Curious about your chances of getting in at certain colleges? Use Cappex’s chances calculator to get insights on your target, reach, and likely schools.

4. Connect with colleges

Colleges have preferences when it comes to enrolling new students. Though this isn’t an exact science, colleges generally want students who have certain GPA minimums, ACT or SAT scores, and who live in certain locations. This varies from school to school.

When you create an account with Cappex, you’ll get a clear list of colleges that want to reach out to you based on your information. If you already know you’re interested in a particular college, connect with them! Contrary to popular belief, letting a school know you’re interested can actually increase your admissions chances in some circumstances. It will also give you a leg up in the real world —networking is an important skill to have at any stage of your career.

If you’re unsure how to start, just fill out this form and Cappex can help facilitate the connection. All you have to do is make an account.

5. Find ways to pay

College is expensive, so financial aid awards called scholarships are designed to help students pay for an undergraduate degree. Scholarships come from a variety of different sources, including clubs, organizations, charities, foundations, businesses, colleges and universities, the government and individuals. Colleges and universities offer financial assistance in the form of merit aid as well, especially for STEM programs. Don’t forget to contact the schools you are considering to see if you qualify for any merit aid!

If you’re looking to find scholarships to help pay, explore scholarships with Cappex’s extensive scholarship database. You can also apply to their $1,000 Easy Money Scholarship, which requires very little effort —no GPA or essay needed to enter.

Set yourself up for success in STEM

Majoring in STEM-related programs in college can open doors to a rewarding and promising career. No matter which grade you’re in, it's a great time to start preparing. With Cappex, you can research schools, get scholarships, and understand where you fit —at any stage of your college journey. Create an account to start planning for college today!

About Cappex

Cappex is a top web destination for students as they actively discover and research colleges online. The platform provides free tools for students to determine their best-fit colleges and scholarships, including more than 3,000 college profiles. Cappex also works closely with admissions officers at hundreds of colleges and universities to help them reach their enrollment goals by going beyond student search to generate qualified inquiries online.