How To Narrow Down Your College List

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Now Is The Time To Start Thinking About Where You Will Apply

It may be the middle of summer, but application season is fast approaching! In just a couple of weeks the Common App will be released, but with the prior announcement of the essay topics, and some schools announcing their supplement questions early, many rising high school seniors have already started on their applications.

While it is a good idea to get a head start on your admissions essays in order to get a bulk of the work out of the way before school starts, you also need to be finalizing, or at least narrowing down, your balanced college list in anticipation of the Aug. 1 application release date.

Now is a great time to begin this process, while you have free time to focus on what’s most important to you and truly reflect on how you feel about the schools on your list.

Here’s what you can be doing now to narrow down your college list before August.

Review your research.

When you began creating your balanced college list, there was most likely a lot of time that went into researching the schools– the academics, campus culture, student organizations, location, etc. These are all important factors in deciding where you ultimately want to apply.

This summer, revisit that research to paint a better picture in your mind about what life would be like at that college or university.  It’s a great way to refresh your memory and begin picking out what you love about the school, or what you may dislike.

Begin drafting your “Why this college” essay.

After going through your research again, begin outlining a “why this college” essay for each of the schools still on your list. Since many colleges and universities ask “Why do you want to go to XYZ University?” in their supplements, this will give you a head start. It’s also a way to really delve into the details.

If you start an outline and begin to struggle to think about “why this school” half-way through, it may not be the best fit. Take some time to think about it. 

Visit again.

Ideally, you would have already visited the schools on your list, or are planning to before early applications are due. So just like revisiting your research, a great way to get a better feel for a particular school when you’re narrowing down your college list is to visit again.

It may have been a while since you were on the campus, and your feelings may have changed, so if you’re in the area this summer, drop by! A school that is your top choice may waver after visiting again, or you may even discover something new and exciting about a school you are unsure about.

Reevaluate your interests. Do these schools have what you want?

Ultimately, you are going to college to get a great education. A main reason why students put schools on their list is because they offer certain majors and courses of study. Take some time to think about what you really want out of your college experience, both academically and personally.

Maybe when you created your list you wanted to study liberal arts but now you’re really interested in business and economics. Take a look at the schools on your list and make sure they offer the programs you want if your academic focus has changed. The same goes for student life. If you have your heart set on joining a fraternity or sorority, but the campus lacks an active Greek-life, maybe it won’t be the best fit for you.

Remember why you wanted to apply in the first place.

While you’re reflecting on your interests and priorities to determine if the schools on your list meet those needs, try to remember why you put that school on your list in the beginning. Was it because of the academic programs? Location? Did your parents go there?

Remembering why a particular school made the cut in the first place is key to determining if it should stay on your list or not. If you just put it on there to satisfy your parents or because you have a lot of friends applying there, that’s a big sign that the school might not be the best-fit for you. Remember that ultimately you’re looking for the best academic, personal, and financial fit, and if a school you added to your list for superficial reasons doesn’t fit those criteria, it might not be the place for you.

What other strategies are you using to narrow your college list this summer? Tell us in the comments below!

 

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