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When you first started researching colleges of interest, your list may have grown substantially in length. For many reasons, you will want to narrow down your list to a manageable number of schools to apply to. Most students settle around 6-10 colleges. We know it can be daunting going from a long list to only a handful of colleges. You may feel like you’re turning your back on potential options for your future. We have a few ways to help you narrow down your list and create a balance that leaves you confident in your choices.

Know Their Numbers

Remember when we talked about knowing your numbers? (This includes GPA, ACT/SAT scores, class rank, etc). Well, now it’s time to look into the admissions statistics for each school of interest. Write down each college of interest, and compare their academic profiles to your own. You can start by searching “Insert College Name Admitted Student Profile,” and most schools have that information readily available. If you built your list using myOptions, you can look at each school’s admission selectivity, too. This will tell you the percentage of students that apply who are admitted.

Keep Class Registration in Mind

You will also want to make sure your high school courses match the admissions requirements for each college. Even though you have not yet finished high school, you will want to plan your schedule accordingly. If you need help with this step, be sure to make an appointment with your high school counselor.

If you are hoping to study a particular program, you will need to ensure that you are signed up to take the required courses for admissions. For example, many engineering programs require that the student has taken high school physics and calculus, or that you plan to take it during your senior year. You can typically find this information on a college website, but the admissions staff from each college is also there to answer your questions, too!

Understand Their Programs and Services

Another essential step to narrowing down your college list is to look into the programs and services offered at each school. With each college, ask yourself: Is this school ready for me? Do they have the programs or majors that I want? Are the support services I need offered on campus? Does the size and location align with my preferences? This is your college search and decision, so be sure to set your priorities. We know, these decisions are difficult to handle on your own, so be sure to turn to your school counselor, family, and mentors when you feel stuck.

Consider Your Financial Fit

When narrowing down your college list, this part can be a little trickier. The cost of college is not always the sticker price you see initially. For example, private schools may appear more expensive than public colleges. However, most private schools have more money to give in scholarships and financial aid to their students. For this reason, don’t discount any school type based on what you believe to be true for affordability. Be sure to have an open conversation with your family about affordability. Also, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment for you, your parents/guardian, and high school counselor.

You can also use myOptions to see the cost of tuition, housing, and other expenses. You can also see the average debt a student has upon graduation, the average financial aid awarded to undergraduates, and the percentage of students that receive financial aid. To explore your personal situations, each college has their own college cost calculator. By doing your research, you will be able to make an informed decision!

Narrow Down Based on Likelihood

Once you have all this information about each college, assess your likelihood of being admitted. You can do this by organizing your college list into categories of “Likely,” “Target,” and “Reach” schools. Though the number of colleges you apply to will vary, students typically apply to 6-9 colleges. You can start by choosing two schools in each category of “Likely,” “Target,” and “Reach” schools.

For clarification, “Likely” schools are colleges where your GPA and test scores fall on the higher end of their admitted student profile. So, you have a higher likelihood of being accepted. Next, “Target” schools are colleges where your academics fit into the average admitted range. Though you have a solid chance of being accepted to your target schools, there’s always the possibility of being waitlisted or denied. Lastly, “Reach” schools are colleges where your academic profile lands on the lower end of the admitted student profile, making it harder to gain admission.

Know Your “Why”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, know why you’re applying to each school. Is it because they offer majors that interest you? Did the campus feel like home on your college visit? Or are you applying because that’s where your friends are applying? Are you focused more on the prestige and brand name of each college? To learn more about choosing colleges that are right for you, check out these tips. By thinking about your “why,” you can be sure you are applying for reasons that align with your goals and priorities.

Now that you’ve done some extra research on the school, I’d bet that some schools have naturally fallen off your list of interested colleges. Great work! We hope these tips help you narrow your college list to options that feel reasonable for you.