Now that you’ve had some time to think about what you want from your college experience, it’s time to do your homework. Even if you have some fairly specific ideas about what you want from a school, there’s a lot of narrowing down to do; there are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States alone, and it’s recommended by the experts that you apply to around 7-10 schools. To narrow down your list to more targeted options, you’ll need to do some virtual research. Here are some tips for how to go about it:
Narrow Down From a “Big List”
If you already have some idea of what you want from your college experience, you’re in a good place to make a “big list.” This will contain any and every school you’ve even considered applying to—whether that’s a local university where you know many current students and alumni, or a school across the country you’ve just always been curious about. Obviously, these schools won’t all end up on your final college list, and you won’t be applying to them all, but your “big list” will be a good starting point for your virtual research.
Take Advantage of Your School’s Resources
Your school has seen generations of students apply to college—they’ve picked up a few tips. Speak to your school’s counselor (some larger schools even have a designated college counselor) and get their perspective. Many schools also keep records of how many students they send to which colleges, and their average GPAs and test scores. This is the closest you can get to a direct comparison with your exact circumstances, helping you to apply to schools where you have the best odds of acceptance.
There’s No Need to Go It alone!
With “networking” something of a buzzword these days, many students are aware of how to build a network, but know less about how to make the most of the one they already have. Friends who’ve already graduated, relatives, siblings of friends—all of these people can be founts of information. If you know someone who had college goals similar to your own, or is attending a school you’re interested in, reach out and ask for a chat! Most people will be happy to help, or at least point you in the right direction.
Be Mindful of Admissions Statistics
Every college you’re interested in will have a useful set of information you’ll need to visit, either on their own website or through a third party—their admissions statistics. This can include how many students applied in a given year and how many of those were accepted, average GPAs and test scores of those admitted, and more. It’s important that you look at these carefully, to determine your plausibility as a candidate at a given school. As you can only apply to so many colleges, you’ll want to make certain that you’re including realistic options where you have a good shot at acceptance in your final list. Admissions statistics are a very black-and-white way of measuring these odds, in addition to the more holistic factors you’ll get a sense of through speaking to counselors and current students. With a combination of quantitative and qualitative virtual research, your college list will start looking manageable in no time at all.