How long should your college list be?

Talk to People You Trust to Build a College List

You may already have one school in mind that you really want to go to, but you may want to consider the advice of people you trust and admire, like family, teachers, community leaders and so on. What colleges did they attend? What sort of experiences did they have? If they know you well, they may have some ideas about which schools might particularly suit your goals. When you are just in the early planning stages, you can create a college list that is as long as you want. In the early stage, a list of as many as twenty schools is fine, since you are just getting an idea of what there is out there that you may want.

Identify What You Want Out of a College to Begin Narrowing Your List

Make some decisions about what sort of college experience you want to have. Are you looking for someplace that is closer to home? A school in a big city or out in the country? A very large school or a smaller one? One thing you can do is take your list and identify which colleges on the list seem like the best candidates for the type of college experience you want to have.

Find Out More About the Schools on Your Short List

Do some detailed research on each of the colleges on your short list. Besides looking at what these colleges have to offer, you will also want to consider your chances of getting accepted to them. Find out what each school’s acceptance rate is. Highly selective schools turn down thousands of applications a year, so you should include schools on your list that are both more and less selective. Finally, also consider the financial cost of each school as well as what kind of financial aid each school can offer those applicants it accepts. At the end of your process you may have a list of perhaps five to seven schools of different types, different levels of selectivity, and so on.

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