Class of 2019

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2018 Newsletter Archive

What You Should Consider Doing NOW: Create a College List

The Importance of a College List

There are more than 4,500 degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States.

How do you sort through all these options and select the few institutions you want to learn more about? Watch this short video to learn how to get started. 

The type of colleges you consider will depend on your goals and expectations.

There are plenty of aspects to consider, but start with these:

Major: What subject would you enjoy studying? Which colleges offer that subject as a major? If undecided, which colleges have support systems that help you explore interests and majors?

Location: Do you want to attend a school close to home? Do you want to live in a big city, or is a small town more appealing? Is there a certain part of the country where you’d like to live?

Size: Do you prefer a more intimate atmosphere or more anonymity? Would you enjoy larger facilities, more programs, and a greater range of extracurricular activities? Or more discussion-based classes, a greater chance of participation, and less distance between you and professors?

Cost of attendance: What is the cost posted on the college or university website or materials? What scholarships and financial aid options does the college provide? Will you receive any help paying for college?

Extracurriculars: Is there a specific activity you’d like to explore in college? Which colleges offer clubs or organizations in that area?

Admission difficulty: When comparing yourself to your graduating high school class, how do you rank? Do you think you’d be able to get into a selective college?

Once you’ve considered these qualities, which is your highest priority?

Use it to start finding and researching colleges. For example, if staying close to home is the most important thing to you, search for colleges near you and start compiling your list.

If you find that more than 20 colleges align with your highest priority, move to the second-most-important priority. For example, if you find multiple colleges with great programs for your major, and you know being at a large school is the second-highest priority, you can eliminate smaller colleges from your list.

Keep going down your priority list until you have around 8-15 colleges you really want to spend time researching. 

Three ways to narrow your college list

  1. Price–If you have a limited amount of money to spend on application fees, this may force you to cut down your list. However, if you take the ACT test using a test fee waiver, you can request to apply to college for free!
  2. Due dates of applications–Gauge how much time you’ll have before deadlines, and fill out a reasonable number of college applications, eliminating those you cannot fit in.
  3. College fit–If you’ve done your research and gone on a campus visit, you should have a pretty solid idea of the environment and your likes and dislikes. Eliminate schools from your list that are a bad fit for you, whether it’s related to a program of study, atmosphere, etc.

A Note About Campus Visits

By the end of your junior year—and before you submit applications—you should visit a majority of your college considerations (PDF). Doing this will help narrow your list. You’ll eliminate those that weren’t a good fit. And you might be surprised at which colleges move up on your list.

Craft an application college admissions officials LOVE with help from this ultimate guide:

What You Can Still Do