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Finalizing Your College List

Last updated January 6, 2020

Your college list may already include dozens of schools. Some schools made the list because it has your major while others made the list because of location. As a senior, it’s time to narrow down that list even further. You want to apply to at least 5 to 8 schools, so having a smaller and more realistic list is important. Here’s what you’ll need to do to finalize your official college list.

Make a criteria list

We know that making another list sounds daunting, but trust us; you’ll need this additional list! Create a list of everything your colleges must have in order to remain on your college list. By having a must-have criteria list, narrowing down your college list will become easier.

Deeper research

You’ve done the initial research, but now it’s time to take a deeper look into the colleges. Use websites like BigFuture by Collegeboard and read through college guide books. Take your must-have criteria list and start marking off the colleges that fit the criteria list and crossing off those that don’t.

Reach, Safety, and Match

With the schools you have listed, create another list (more lists!). Group schools into Reach, Safety, and Match. Research the schools average admissions GPA and test scores to compare with your own. This will help determine if the school is a Reach, Safety, or Match school.

  • Reach schools are the ones you dream of going to, but know you’ll have difficulty getting in. The difficulty could be the small acceptance rate, your GPA, or the cost of tuition; whatever the difficulty is, you know it’ll be a challenge. 
  • Safety schools are the schools where you know you’ll be accepted. Your credentials are beyond the minimum requirements for the school. They may not be the colleges in your top five, but these are the schools you can bet will accept you. 
  • Match schools are schools that you may or may not get in. Your credentials match the requirements, but it’s still not guaranteed you’ll be accepted. These schools may have all the basic requirements you want in a college, but aren’t considered a dream school.

Campus Visits

If you have the chance to visit a campus, take it! Seeing a campus through pictures can get you interested, but experiencing it in person can be the deciding factor. You could fall in love with the environment and people, or completely hate the vibe of the campus. We highly encourage you to visit some of the schools on your list.

Talk to the alumni

Alumni can be one of your biggest assets when it comes to narrowing down schools. Former students will have the best insight for you. They’ve experienced the school and made it out with a diploma. Talk to your high school counselor to see if they can help you connect with past students at the colleges you’re interested in attending.

Need to build your college list? Read this article for help

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