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What Should You Consider When Creating Your College List?

Creating a college list can seem to be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Starting as early as your freshman or sophomore year is ideal. This gives you time to adequately research colleges and decipher the best fit for you. Don't worry, if you are a junior there is still time to build your college list. Here are some tips to consider and begin your journey now...

Research, Research, Research

You can always start your list with the colleges that you are interested in and narrow your list down as you discover your likes and dislikes. Think about the career(s) you may want to pursue after graduating, then research the majors that align with those careers. Do the schools on your list have those majors?

When researching colleges it is important to think about how the institution can help set you up for success after graduation. Look for schools with a strong work-study, internship or co-op programs, and strong alumni networks.

Determine Your Best Fit

Where you go will color many aspects of your lives. You want to feel comfortable because it will be your home for the next four years. When determining the best fit school for you consider the following criteria based on your needs:

  • Location

  • Campus size

  • Cost

  • Distance from home

  • Academic programs/major

  • Weather/climate

  • Athletic programs

Schedule Campus Tours

Make sure you visit the schools on your list. This will provide you the opportunity to ask questions, gives you a first-hand view of the college, allows you to familiarize yourself with the campus culture, and more.


Ensure you include at least 15 schools on your list from the following categories:

  • 2 - 3 "likely" schools - your academic profile is greater than the average 1st year student

  • 2 "safety" schools - can be most financially viable option - your academic profile matches the average 1st year student

  • 4 - 5 "target" schools - your academic profile is greater than or equal to the average 1st year student

  • 1 - 2 "reach" schools (highly selective schools) - your academic profile may be less than the average 1st year student but school look at the holistic student

These are a few factors to consider when building your college list. Make sure you aren't adding schools just because they are popular or your parents went there. Ensure you take the time to do a deep search. Your list may change as you grow and learn more about your interests, and that is okay.

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