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When applying to college, building a college list is an essential first step. Creating this list can be confusing, especially when there are lots of voices sharing their opinions and interpretations of an ideal college experience. The truth is, college is what you make of it. It’s your education, and you decide what is right for you. There is an option out there for everyone, even if it looks a little different than what you see in the movies. Read on for more tips to build a college list that reflects your goals for the future.

Know your numbers

First things first, look at the facts around acceptance, and focus on what you can control. Your test scores and your grades play a part in your college eligibility, so be sure to factor in these details. No matter where your grades fall, there are options out there for you! By researching thoroughly and realistically, you can give yourself a chance at the right college. Narrow your list of colleges to schools that will accept your specific academic profile.

Weigh your priorities

In the first episode of Friday Five, we talked about types of colleges, types of degrees, and understanding what you need and want from college. Being clear on these things can shape your college list drastically. If you’re still thinking about the type of lifestyle you hope to live, you can always go back and watch that episode again for a refresher.

Reflect on your situation

Self-exploration and self-reflection are critical to knowing your unique personal situation. Start by owning your personal ambitions and build a roadmap for how to get there. What interests you? Which subject inspires you? What problem in the world do you want to help solve? If you don’t know what profession interests you, that is okay! There are college programs set up to help you explore that. Clarifying your career goals and interests will help you select schools that can support you the way you need.

Establish a support system

Don’t do it alone! Whether you know it or not, you have people that can help keep you motivated, share their wisdom, and offer advice. You can turn to your family including parents/guardians, aunts, uncles, or older siblings. Be sure to reach out to other mentors such as coaches, community members, religious leaders, teachers, and most importantly, your school counselor. Even if you are seeking help and guidance, this is still your journey. A strong support system can serve as a board as you continue to unpack your priorities, make decisions, and plan for life after high school.

In summary, familiarize with your academics, reflect on your situation, clarify your priorities, include someone in your journey, and consider a tool to keep you organized. With these tips, you’re on your way to building a college list that fits your aspirations for the future!