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How To Build Your College List

Last updated March 14, 2023

Find the Right Colleges. How to Build Your College List

With so many different colleges and universities across the country to choose from, you might be wondering how to find ones that match your academic and career goals, budget, and interests outside of the classroom. It can be a lengthy and sometimes confusing process, but we're here to help! Check out our tips below on how to build your college list.

Researching schools

To begin your search, we recommend using the U.S. Department of Education's  College Scorecard tool - it breaks down graduation rates, average annual costs, student body demographics, and more. Once you have a better idea of what you do and don't want in a potential school, we recommend using College Board's BigFuture platform to build your college list, explore careers, learn about the financial aid process, and more! As you start building your initial list and getting a feel for what you do want in a college, consider the following factors:


Here are some pros and cons of attending an in-state college vs. an out-of-state one. 


  • Pros: saving on tuition, being close to loved ones, saving money on extra college costs such as living in dorms 
  • Cons: less independence or freedom, a struggle to make friends/meet new people, long commutes to/from school


  • Pros: gaining independence, starting a new journey from home, experiencing life in a different part of the country 
  • Cons: homesickness, potentially not having loved ones nearby, higher college costs  


Interested in studying Political Science? Always been curious about Nursing? Make sure the schools you're interested in applying to offer the academic programs and degrees you're interested in pursuing. Unsure of what you want to study? Check out the course schedules offered at schools you're interested in to get a feel of the kinds of programs that typically exist at most colleges. 

Student population size 

Pay attention to the size and culture of the school. Smaller colleges have smaller class sizes, more access to professors, a close-knit community, and more availability to resources such as housing, transportation, etc. Larger colleges tend to have more sports funding, more things happening on and around campus, and a wider variety of classes and options for majors.

Extracurriculars & athletics 

Are you looking for certain sports programs, clubs, or student organizations? Keep an eye out for any extracurricular programs that are important to you. Extracurriculars are how many students make friends in college. 

(To Download our FREE College List Builder, click the button below!)

How To Build Your College List download link

Once you’ve thought carefully about what you want in a potential college, take a look at key statistical indicators of student success and degree-value at the colleges you’re interested in:

Average salary after graduation 

A college degree is in most cases a gateway to better career opportunities. It’s important to research what kind of career outcomes the average student at each college you’re interested in achieves. After all, that could be you if you end up attending!

Graduation rates 

This is the percentage of students that successfully obtain a Bachelor’s degree after 4-6 years at any given college. Graduation rates lower than 70-80% are a red flag - they can indicate that students at that college are struggling or dropping out more frequently.

Cost of attendance 

This is a projection of how much 4 years of tuition, housing, food, books, and other fees typically will cost at a college. Filing the  FAFSA is essential to ensure you receive financial aid to help pay for these fees.  

Discovered some colleges you're interested in?  Let us know which in this discussion board! Once you're done building a healthy list of 9-10 potential colleges and are ready to make a decision, check out this guide on how to decide where to apply to college!

Any questions about the college application process? Text us! Send #Hello to 33-55-77!

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