Which Colleges to Apply To: Narrowing Down that Large List

There are over 2,000 4-year colleges in the United States alone; hopefully you’re not planning to apply to all of them. Not only is that an extremely high amount of money spent in college application fees, which run about $70 each, but that displays extreme negligence for taking the time to figure out which colleges to apply to. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you take the time to decide where you want to go to school (Northeast? Southwest? Mid-Atlantic?), what type of school you want to go to (Large? Small? Co-ed?), how much money you’re planning to spend ($10,000 or $40,000?), and which schools are likely to accept you. By creating a set of standards for the type of school you’d like to attend, you’re minimizing the amount you’ll spend in application fees and making the process of applying much, much easier.

  • Step 1: Pick a region where you want to attend school. You’ll be spending 4 years in that climate, so you better like it! This will easily narrow down your pool of colleges to pick from to about 500 or less. Then decide between an urban, suburban, or rural campus-this will narrow it down even more!
  • Step 2: How big do you want the school to be? Schools like Williams College have about 2,000 undergrads, while University of Pennsylvania-sized schools have nearly 10,000. More students equals more competition, more parties, more traffic, and less attention from professors. If you like having time with your teachers and want to foster a more personal relationship with your peers, small schools are for you. Deciding on the size of the school will for sure give you a better idea of which colleges to apply to in the fall.
  • Step 3: Tuition is always a deal-breaker. Private universities tend to be a bit pricier than public ones, so choose wisely. However, always remember that there are grants, scholarships, and loans there to help you; so don’t let the outrageous tuition of your dream school keep you from applying. Getting in is the hardest part, and be accepted by a college means that they want you there, so they’ll try and make sure you can attend.
  • Step 4: Make 3 lists: One for reaches, one for matches, and one for safeties. Reach schools are the more competitive colleges where you might get in by some miracle and would indefinitely attend if accepted. Match schools are the schools that you have a very solid chance of getting in; they’re the schools you wouldn’t be opposed to attending since you’d be at the same level (or even higher) than the average accepted freshman. Finally, the safety schools are the colleges you are certain you will get into. Safety schools are a worst-case-scenario kind of thing, but make sure they are ones that you would be okay with attending; you never know. Pick about 2 reach schools, 4 match schools, and 2 safety schools. Chances are you’ll get into a few of them!

With so many great schools from coast to coast, it’s hard to choose less than 10 to apply to. However, following these steps will help you create a solid list of which colleges to apply to. Picking the right school is extremely important, and putting time into making the decision of where you want to go to college will pay off.

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