The end of junior year brings the beginning of the college search. Maybe you’ve had a “dream school” since freshman year, or maybe this is your first time considering where you envision yourself after graduation. Either way, building a college list should be on your to-do list if your post-graduation plans include college. But with the thousands of colleges and universities in the United States, creating a list can seem challenging. As you progress from the initial stages of college exploration to submitting applications this fall and winter, your list will shorten and your pathway from high school senior to college first year will become clearer.
In the early stages, it’s okay to have several colleges on your list- but remember, just because they sound interesting, it does not mean you should or need to apply. Your college list should be balanced and diverse, reflecting these three categories: probable (your cumulative GPA and test scores are higher than the average admitted student), target (your cumulative GPA and test scores are on par with the average admitted student), and reach (your cumulative GPA and test scored are slightly lower than the average admitted student). These categories will help guide your search, as well as help you decide where to apply. Important: Also select at least one college that is financially affordable for your family. This college, known as a financial safety school, should be one that you like and would want to attend.
The first half of the battle is identifying your probable, target, and reach schools – the second half is to spend time identifying your interests, skills, and needs. Through introspection, consider these factors:
- The type of institution -> Public, private, two-year, four-year, religious, military, technical, liberal arts, pre-professional?
- Size -> Large university or small liberal arts college? Seminar-style classes with 15 students or lectures with 100 students?
- Demographics -> Is diversity embraced on campus?
- Location -> Urban or rural? Close to home or far away?
- Academics -> Are there a variety of majors and academic programs? Is your chosen major offered?
- Costs -> What are the direct costs (tuition, fees, room and board) and the indirect costs (books, transportation, supplies, etc.)?
- Activities and experiences -> How do you want to become involved on campus? Sports, clubs, honor societies, Greek life, volunteer opportunities?
- Special programs -> Honors, ROTC, early graduation, or study abroad programs? Support services like the Learning Center or Accessibility Services? Professional programs like internships or co-ops?
Your preferences on these factors will help you to narrow results on college search engines like College Navigator or Big Future, designed to help students learn more about colleges and universities. If you have already created an account with the College Board for the SAT and test preparation, you can save your college list to that same account. These free tools, alongside admissions websites, will help you to explore your options and create a list of schools you would like to learn more about. Also have your cumulative GPA and standardized test scores near-by when using these tools; these numbers will identify probable, target, and reach schools.
Ready to put together your college list? Our college counselors are available for individual college prep appointments. During these virtual appointments we outline the college admissions process, create a working list of colleges to visit, and identify your next steps. Call 888.747.2382, ext. 119 for a FREE appointment.