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Building a college list

How to search for colleges without going crazy
  1. Go to If you don’t already have one, create a sign in and password. Read their resources. Take a self-survey:

  2. Click on Find Colleges, then College Search in the drop down menu

  3. Go through the filters and fill out the ones that are important to you. Save the selections and see what colleges come up on the list. Avoid for-profit colleges.

  4. Start looking at the selections. Pick one and go through all of the tabs: At a Glance, Deadlines, Majors & Learning Environment, Campus Life, Applying, Paying

  5. Under Majors & Learning Environment you will find:

    • Student-faculty ratio, % of freshmen returning for sophomore year, 6 year graduation rate

    • Most popular majors, degrees offered etc.

  6. Campus Life contains information on:

    • Size of the school, number of freshmen, and setting

    • Average age, gender, race/ethnicity etc.

    • On campus housing

    • Sports & Activities

  7. Under “Applying” you will find:

    • Level of selectivity/acceptance rate

    • If standardized tests are required or considered

    • What high school courses you must or should have completed

    • The percentage of students accepted in each GPA level. Is your GPA in any of the groups? (remember include only 10th and 11th grade GPA in college preparatory classes: English, Math, Science, Social Studies, History, Foreign Language, Visual and Performing Arts. Do not count TA’ing)

    • The SAT and ACT ranges. This means 50% of the students were in this range. 25% are above, and 25% are below. Where do you fit?

    • AP and CLEP credit and placement policies. (CLEP is College Level Exam Program)

  8. Under “Paying” you will find:

    • Cost of attendance which includes tuition, fees, room & board, estimated personal expenses, transportation costs

    • Under “Financial Aid by the Numbers: The percentage of financial need met

    • The average first year financial aid package

    • Average loans and amount of indebtedness at graduation

  9. You can create a college list, compare colleges, and see if you are on track. Save the college list.

For your beginning searches, focus on location, learning environment, courses and majors offered, and anything else that is important to you such as music ensembles, sports, student activities, etc.  Take note of financial and merit aid, but do not let it be your most important concern.

Go to the college website and look around. Read blogs by students and faculty, take a virtual tour, look at the classes.

Biggest Mistakes:

  • Being too picky. Be open minded and consider schools that do not have EVERYTHING you think you want or need. If the college has a lot of qualities you want, give it a chance. You may find that what you thought was essential wasn’t. Remember your tastes and needs change.

  • Getting stuck on one school. There are no “perfect” schools. Your experience will be what you make of it. Keep your options open and find a range of “perfect” schools with varying levels of selectivity.

  • It is very rare that one school will have everything you want. Decide which of your want list items are more important and look for those.

College Search Sites and Resources:

Have fun creating your college list first, then dive into the details. Don’t Panic!

Be open-minded. Don’t focus on cost. There is financial aid available, find your schools first

Search at least 2 colleges a week, by the end of 11th grade you will know a lot more than before!

Talk to your counselor, use the College Center resources, go to on-campus college visits, tour colleges.


If you need more help, attend one of my workshops or seminars.

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