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5 Ways to Narrow Down Your List of Colleges

Fri, Jun 29, 2012 @ 12:07 PM

College List

5 Ways to Narrow Down Your List of Colleges

So many colleges, so hard to find the best fit. As rising seniors create their college lists this summer, many students find that creating an expansive list of schools they’d like to go to is easier than winnowing down the list. Here are some tips from Dr. Kat to help narrow your focus.

1. Make sure the list is balanced.

Have a conversation with your high school college counselor to see which category each college on your list fits into: reach (less than 30% chance of admission), target (30-60% chance of admission), or likely (greater than 60% chance of admission). You need one DEFINITE likely school at the very least. Ideally, you should apply to 3-4 reach schools, 3-5 target schools, and 1-2 likely schools. If you have 8 reach schools on your list, then start cutting!

2. Verbalize or write down the pros and cons of each college.

What would you pursue at the college both inside and outside the classrooms? You should have done your research on each of the schools and know professors, courses, extracurricular activities, resources, community service, study abroad and internship opportunities at each college. This will help you decide which communities are good matches for you.

3. Get beyond the colleges' names and get into their experiences.

Try this. Cover up the names of the schools and just discuss academic course of study, professors, activities, organizations, student population, resources, surrounding community, etc. Take the names out of the discussion. When you focus on the experiences, often the truth comes out and some colleges will be cut even though its name was a very attractive one. 

4. Consider the location of the college and the cost of traveling to and from home.

Some students get excited about going far away, across the country, to college. But the reality of being so far away may be daunting once you are actually living there. Think about location and community. What kind of community would make you most comfortable? Urban? Suburban? Rural? What does the surrounding community/town/city offer?

5. Visiting colleges will often rule some out!

In a guidebook, a college may look as if it fits the bill perfectly. It’s not until you get up close and visit that you see a more complete picture. If you can afford the time and expense of doing some college visits, it can help you edit your list! Often you get a gut feeling (kind of like dating) about the college as soon as you are on campus. You’ll instantly know if the community is a good match or not. Seeing what it is really like to be at the college (especially if school is in session) helps make the decision to keep the college or cut it from the list and is often the tie-breaker.

Sarah Shanahan

Written by Sarah Shanahan

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