How to Create Your College List

How to Create Your Perfect College List!


Creating your ideal college list can be a challenge. There are over 4,000 colleges in the United States. That is a lot of schools with which to become familiar! It is a big reason why families hire professionals to help them make these decisions, but you can start the process on your own. If you follow these different areas then you can begin comprising your perfect college list.


Geographic Location


One of the first things you can do to cut down a large list of 4,000 schools is limit your geographic area. Is it important for you to be a day’s drive from home? Do you want to be somewhere warm? Do you want to be somewhere with seasons? Think about the geographic detail you desire in a college, and be realistic. You may like the idea of snow, but consider what it is like to live in the snow too.


Once you have an idea of the type of area you’d like to live then you can use college search engines (free online) to begin looking at schools that are within your target area or target state.


Social Fit


The next thing you should examine is social fit. Every college campus has a different personality. Some schools have students who are more bohemian and interested in the earth. Some schools have students who are outgoing and big into Greek life on campus. Other schools have students who are very competitive and interested in exceling academically. What type of students would you like to live with for 4-5 years?


It is important that you have a social connection to your classmates. If you’re going to live somewhere for a few years then you need to have a sense of community and you must have friends. You can try looking up student surveys and campus life information on the college’s websites, but we recommend turning to college search engines and social media. College search engines typically offer unbiased information about what students said about the school. Social media allows you to access what real, live students say while attending that college. Try using Twitter or Instagram for this insiders look at a day in the life of a college student. #collegesearchsmart.


Program of Study


Another huge part of making your college list is examining the program of study. If you want to major in business, but your ideal college doesn’t offer that as a major, perhaps it isn’t the best place for you. Again, college is a chance to propel you towards opportunities. Networking, interning, researching, etc. are all great, but if you can’t get a degree in the field you need for your future career then you’re using college the wrong way. Use college search engines online to examine colleges who are reputable for certain programs and who offer your specific program of study.


Another piece to think about when it comes to program of study is finding a niche. If you want to pick a strong list of colleges and strategically leverage your chance to get accepted, then you should consider majors that are more specific (like Biochemistry instead of Biology or Astrophysics instead of Physics). When you have a niche you stand out more. There are less applicants looking to be admitted to these smaller fields, so it only helps your chances of showing your uniqueness and getting in!


Test Scores and Grades


When you’re putting together a list of colleges you must include academic information. By that I mean test scores and grades. If you’re applying to colleges who all average a 4.5 G.P.A. and a 34 ACT then you’re going to have some trouble. You need to have a range of colleges with different admission averages. This will ensure you get in somewhere great, and it can also help with financial aid.
If you’re scoring in the top 10-15% for admitted students then the school may want to make you a deal. Colleges want to attract the best and brightest. Consider applying to a few “safety schools” where you’d be considered for an honors program. This can help in terms of merit-based financial aid and in admission.


Affordability vs. Affluence


We touched on this a few chapters ago, but yes—it is here again. You really need to think long and hard about what your goals are in college planning. If you’re more concerned with where you get in and the prestige of that school then you’re looking at affluence. If you’re more concerned with how much the bill will be when it comes due, then you’re more concerned with affordability. Knowing this will be crucial when developing your college list.


We’ll get into more detail on financial aid later in the book (Chapter 10), but know this: colleges are not all generous. Some offer more financial aid than others. If affordability is a concern then you may want to scratch certain schools off of your list. This would avoid your student having to make a tough decision later if you can’t afford the bill. It also would save you the time and energy of applying and the cost of the application fee.



Now, you’ve done it! You’ve created something special. Or… you’re thoroughly overwhelmed.


If you need help getting ready for college, we highly recommend you call us. We’re happy to schedule a one hour, no-strings-attached college planning meeting. We can make sure you have a personalized plan to achieve your college goals.

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