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How to Make a College List

A young woman looking at her laptop as she searches for colleges

Creating a well-balanced college list is a meticulous process that involves careful research and consideration of numerous factors. Follow these steps to ensure that your list is comprehensive and, most importantly, tailored to your individual needs and aspirations. 

Research colleges

Start by thoroughly researching various colleges and universities. Explore institutions of different sizes, locations, and academic strengths. Use resources like college websites and Appily’s college database to gather information. 

Points to consider at each school:

Identify your priorities

Next, clarify your priorities and preferences. Review the points listed above, reflecting on what matters most to you in your college experience.

You should also consider your personal preferences and values independent of academics. Think about the type of campus culture that resonates with you and any specific amenities or features critical to your well-being and success. 

Take virtual tours of any school that you’re considering. This is an excellent way to get a vibe check and ensure that the colleges on your list align with your overall lifestyle and values. You’ll spend your next four (or more) years there, so it’s essential that you can picture yourself thriving there!

Confirm an academic fit

You should also think carefully about the academic fit of each institution. Consider the strength of programs related to your intended major, the faculty's expertise, and the resources available, such as internship opportunities, tutoring services, and more.

Consider the average class size, student-to-faculty ratio, and graduation rates. Ask yourself if you thrive in a challenging environment or prefer a more relaxed setting. 

Then, balance your list with a mix of reach, match, and safety schools based on your academic achievements and goals.

Pay attention to financial considerations

Research each school’s tuition costs, housing expenses, and meal plans. Then, look into financial aid options, scholarship opportunities, and work-study programs each school may offer. It’s best to be realistic about your budget and consider colleges that align with your financial circumstances.  

Have a diverse selection of schools on your list

Be sure you have a diverse mix of colleges on your list. Include public and private institutions, large and small campuses, and urban and rural settings. 

This diversity allows you to explore different learning environments and experiences, increasing the likelihood of finding a college that aligns with your preferences. As you delve deeper into your research, you’ll discover the type of campus you most prefer.

Regularly reassess and refine your list

The college application process is dynamic, and your priorities may evolve. Regularly reassess and refine your college list as you gather more information and clarify your goals. 

Stay open-minded to new possibilities and be flexible in adjusting your choices accordingly. This is a working list, so don’t feel like once it’s created, it is the end-all-be-all.

Ready to build your college list?

By following these steps, you can create a well-balanced college list that reflects your individuality and maximizes your chances of finding a college that meets your academic, personal, and financial criteria. Be diligent in your research, remain true to yourself, and have fun with it. 

If you want to get a head start on researching colleges, consider taking our college match quiz. By answering a few short questions, you’ll see a list of schools that could be perfect for your needs and interests. 

Just click the button below to get started. It’s always free and easy to use Appily tools and resources.

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