Every college-bound student should strive to compile a list of schools with good financial, academic, and social ties. Here’s a handy guide to making a college list.
When Should You Start a College List?
Ideally, you should start building a college list during your junior year of high school. However, the timing may vary depending on whether you want to apply for an Early Decision, Early Action, Continuous Admission, or Regular Admission. Each of these options has different application deadlines.
How Should You Start Making a College List?
When building a college list, make sure you are using the right tools for your research. Here are a few suggestions:
- The College Board – The college board is a good general source of information about colleges and admissions.
- Individual college websites – You should visit individual school websites for financial, academic, and social information. Also check out the virtual tours. Note the published participation costs and information on financial support. Check to see if the school has your major and area of study in addition to the clubs or extracurricular activities you are interested in.
- Fishing guide for universities – This guide is updated and published every year and is available in print and online
- College Insights – College Insights is a new interactive online search tool that helps you find the right colleges, at the right price, with the right financial support and the right scholarships in minutes.
- The best value colleges from PayScale – PayScale publishes a ranking of universities according to return on investment. Families can compare salaries across schools for a specific major after completing their studies.
- Student Advisor – College Counselors Are Here To Help You! They have the experience to advise you throughout the search process.
Information To Look For When Building Your College List
One big mistake families make is waiting for letters of admission to come in to see if you can afford the schools your student applied to. That can be a recipe for disappointment.
Imagine you come to your dream school but cannot go for cost reasons and then learn that it is too late to apply to other schools. Better Approach? Determine beforehand what your family can afford, how much you might need for loans, and whether you will be eligible for on-demand or performance-based financial assistance.
Financial assistance can include in-demand college assistance, federal and state grants, work studies and federal loans, and meritocratic scholarships.
If you may need to take out a loan to cover the cost of college, use the College Ave Student Loans Calculator to get an idea of your monthly payment and the total cost of the loan.
Academic fit means a variety of things when creating a college list. Academics can include courses, majors, school size, and class size. It also means taking a good look at the school’s location, as location can affect how well students adapt to new environments and, in turn, hold their own academically. Is the school in a city? A more rural setting? Are there any stays abroad?
For school-leaving qualifications, review each college’s acceptance rates, student average school grades, and average standardized test scores. Students want to feel like they are in the right place and are doing well, and these are all good indicators.
Also, if you are a family in need of income support to be able to pay for college, finding colleges where your student’s test scores and GPA are in the upper range (75th percentile) is important. When a college awards merit scholarships, they are more likely to offer them to applicants with admission statistics similar to those of the top tier that they have admitted in the past.
Things to consider: What are the school’s assessment guidelines? Do they have study groups, tutoring centers, peer counselors, a career center, and flexibility for different learning styles and needs? Are there internships and research opportunities?
Finally, look for professors and their achievements, especially in the areas of study that are of interest.
3. Social Fit
Finding the right social fit in college means something different for everyone. You should consider the following:
- What social opportunities does the school offer both on and off campus?
- What transport options are there for events outside of campus?
- What types of clubs are there? Is there anything that interests you?
- What types of intramural and team sports are there? What sports are there?
- How common is Greek life? Do you wish to join?
What types of schools should be on your college list?
So you’ve looked at the financial, academic and social situation. What types of schools should be on a college list now?
You should involve both public and private schools for a good mix.
If you have a school that is considered a range or dream school, add it to your college list. The key is not to fill the list with them. A good balance between game schools (which are a good fit with your background, goals, and finances) and safety schools (which you are very likely to attend) is best.
How Many Schools Should Be on a College List?
Most experts recommend having between six and ten colleges when creating a college list.
You may have more at first, but make sure you cut it off before applying. What’s the best way to carve? You can use the school’s tuition information on their website to determine the cost of the college. You can also delete any schools that do not have the major or course you want to pursue.
Finalize your college list
Start with a review of your finances and from there build your college list. The ultimate goal is to have a list of schools that you believe will be accepted and that you will succeed in.