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The Beginning Stages of Creating a College List: 6 Tips to Get Started

If you’re a student considering applying to college, you've probably been told by many people in your life to "just start a list." While that sounds simple enough, it can be overwhelming to start! In this blog post, we'll share 6 key tips to keep in mind as you get started making your college list (and following colleges on Scoir).

Ultimately, our hope is that this helps you develop a college list that makes sense to you and your educational goals—aka colleges that are good fits! 😊

1. Establish Your Priorities

It’s very easy to get caught up in the prestige of names, reputation, and ranking of colleges. If you find yourself too concerned with reputation, you may miss out on colleges that actually make sense for you. Before you begin to make a college list, try reflecting on these questions:

  • Why do you want to go to college?
  • In what type of learning environment do you feel most comfortable?
  • What kind of people do you want to live and study with?
  • What are 3-4 things you want to accomplish by the time you graduate?
  • How important are cost and affordability to the equation?

2. Identify Your Personal Preferences

The more schools you learn about, the more you’ll start to identify things that you like and dislike. Soon enough, you’ll have a pretty solid grasp on your preferences. For example, would you prefer a college campus that is closer to or farther away from a city? Do you want to participate in outdoor activities that are dependent upon a certain climate? Do you want to attend a large university or a small one?

This list of personal preferences is different from your list of "academic essentials," or the things that you feel a college must have in order for you to learn and grow academically there. That said, your personal preferences won't all carry equal weight (some will be more of a deal-breaker than others), and you have to take into account how important each preference is to your success. You can organize your preferences easily in your Scoir account!

3. Let Your List Grow Initially

When you're first starting your search, especially if you're in 9th or 10th grade, feel free to let your list grow! Don't feel too concerned about keeping it small—as you learn more about what you're looking for by 11th and 12th grade, your list will narrow down naturally.

4. Visit College Campuses (Virtually or In-Person)

Whether you visit a college in-person or online, getting a sense of what a school is really like can be a game-changer! Take the time to learn the difference between research universities and liberal arts colleges; public and private colleges; urban campuses and rural colleges. The more you go on tours and learn what each college has to offer, the easier it will be to identify colleges that are a good fit for you.

Students on Scoir can participate in virtual on-campus experiences thanks to our partnership with YouVisit, in addition to signing up for in-person and virtual college events and rep visits. 

5. Focus on Schools Within Your Academic Reach

You’ve likely heard of building a college list that includes "likely" (or "safety") schools, "level" schools, and "reach" schools.

This can be a helpful way to organize colleges on your list based on how our academic credentials match up with those of the average student at that college; however, don't get too caught up in the labels! This way of thought, while popular, can also do you a disservice by encouraging you to think that schools not in the “reach” category aren’t as valuable, and blinding you to more appropriate options.

Try to build your list by starting with schools within your academic reach and end with any remaining "reach" schools; you should allow yourself a “dream school” or two, but it’s best to build your list around "level" schools that will value all the incredible qualities you have to offer.

You can learn more about Likely/Level/and Reach schools here.

6. A College List of 8-10 is Enough

By the time September of your senior year rolls around, you should be prepared to whittle your list down to a workable number. A thorough and thoughtful list usually rests around no more than 8-10 colleges—which means you'd have no more than 8-10 applications to complete. 

You may get tempted to apply to even more colleges, especially if they offer quick* or easy-apply applications. Try to resist! The more applications you commit to, the harder it can be to stay on top of each. Applying to 8-10 colleges gives you more of a chance to present yourself in a compelling fashion to the schools that are most important to you! 

*What are some of these quick ways colleges can try to get you to apply? Some colleges might offer fee waivers for applications submitted online. Other colleges might recognize you as a “priority applicant” if you apply by a specific deadline. Others still will send you applications that are already filled out for you; you simply sign and return the form. Resist the temptation to add these schools to your list just because they made it easy for you! Most good things in life don’t come easy. We’re sure you’re rolling your eyes now after reading that, but it's true!

Start Your Search by Following Colleges Today!

If you're a Scoir student, take the first step by following a college today! Curating a list in Scoir is the simplest way to collaborate with those who support your college journey (like counselors and parents/guardians). View suggestions, chat about your options, add, delete, and continually utilize the My Colleges list until you have a sense of what fit looks like to you. Once you do start following colleges on Scoir, you can begin to receive custom recommendations from us, and unique communications from colleges based on your designated interests. Plus, you can take the whole Scoir experience on the go with our Scoir Mobile App.

There's no wrong way to start. Sign in today! 

Learn more about Scoir

Are you a student or family member hoping to learn more about how Scoir can help you with your college journey? Find out more here.

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