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How to Decide Where to Apply to College

Last updated August 17, 2023

How to Decide Where to Apply to College

After you’ve researched and identified a list of colleges you’re interested in applying to, your next step is to begin the actual process of applying. You’ll find that you might have to make some tough decisions about applying to the colleges you’ve identified on your list, since you’ll most likely have to pay application fees for most of the schools you apply to. As you prepare to apply to college, start by taking these steps to help you narrow your list:

Categorize your schools

When starting the application process the first step is to organize your college list into three categories - Dream, Target, and Match schools.

  • Dream schools are the ones you dream of going to, but are a bit more competitive to get into, due to things like small acceptance rates, minimum GPAs or test scores, or even high costs of tuition.
  • Target schools are schools you feel confident about getting accepted to, even if they’re not necessarily at the very top of your list.
  • Match schools are schools you have a strong chance of getting admitted to. Your test scores, GPA, or coursework typically match those of other incoming students at these schools.

These categories are different for everyone. You can find out which of the listed schools are a fit by comparing the data colleges publish on their average admitted student GPA and ACT/SAT test scores, and comparing them with your own.

Plan your in-person or virtual visits

Visiting a college is a great way to decide where to apply. It can give you a better feel for its academics, student life, and things going on around campus. While in-person tours are great, we know traveling to every college campus on your list can get expensive - especially if you’re interested in schools out of state! But don’t worry - there’s plenty of great ways to tour a college virtually.

These tours can be so important to help you narrow down your list of schools you actually apply to - so don’t sleep on them! Use our FREE college tour note sheet to keep all your thoughts, notes, and questions organized! Just click the button below.

Join alumni and current student groups online

Most colleges have thriving online communities on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. These groups, made up of current students and alumni, are welcoming spaces that students interested in attending a certain college can join to get real, experienced-based answers to their most pressing questions about it.

Talk to us!

We know that applying to college can be incredibly stressful - but we’re here to help! Text #Hello to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our college advisors about applying to college, or leave us a comment on Instagram @getschooled

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