Creating a Realistic College List! by Patti Brugman

         So often students make a college list that is full of random schools that they’ve heard of, schools that might impress friends, or that have a football team. How do you find schools that are right for you? College should be a place that offers you a personal connection. While there may not be a “perfect fit” college for everyone, there should certainly be a “pretty good fit.” Creating a list of great schools can be great fun. Make it long and diverse, then shorten it to about 10 schools. Look for schools that excite your intellectual curiosity and offer great programs that lead to your success. How exciting is that!


Here a few ways to help you create a real college list, one full of schools that are just right for you:


1.    Start with your stats: There is no sense applying to Pomona College if you’re a happy B+ student. Start your search by writing out your GPA, the AP classes you’ve taken, and any honors you’ve received. Add in the best scores from your ACT or SAT tests.  The stronger your service and leadership, the more reach schools you can consider.

2.    Check your mail: You are already on school’s mailing lists! You might be receiving letters, postcards, brochures, or even packets from colleges that already think you’re a good fit for their school. Check out these schools. They are the ones most likely to offer you merit scholarships!

3.    Check the map: I use a plastic placemat of the U.S. It’s a great visual tool for students. Where would you like to be for four years? How about the Midwest or the South?  Both are excellent choices for finding great schools that are eager to accept Californians!

4.    College Map App: I love the College Map App. This app lists all the colleges in any state you touch. From there, you can find a few basic statistics and then click on their website to find out more. This is a great way to get some regional diversity on to your list.

5.    College Data: is a fabulous website to help sort out college stats. If you’d like a small school that has a great politics department, you can find it here in a snap. You can sort schools by regions, by major, and even by price.

6.    Go to the Website: As you look at school websites, take notes. Write down what you like about a school.  Is it the architecture, or the sophomore study abroad program? Do you want to take entrepreneurship or be on the woman’s golf team? Later, if you decide to apply to any of these schools, you can use your notes to answer the question: “Why do you wish to apply to Hanover?” Answering with specific facts makes a big difference to Admissions.

7.    Check Youtube: Youtube has become a fabulous source for making the college list because with the click of a button, you can take a campus tour, hear students talk about a campus, and learn about special programs. Once again, while you watch a 2-minute video, be sure to take notes.

8.    Register with a school on their website: By going to a college’s website and registering, you are showing interest which will be a big help if you decide to apply. If you receive gorgeous brochures, keep them handy. Posters? Tape them to the back of the kitchen door! 


Once you start collecting colleges, keep them visible and in your mind so that you can add a few new names to the college conversation:  Gettysburg, Tufts, Clemson, Rice, Whitman, or Occidental. This is your chance, so take time to enjoy the process!