Take a balanced approach
Make a list of all the colleges you’re interested in. As you narrow your list down, aim to include a few schools from each of these categories. You’ll want some “safety” schools, some schools you have a fair shot at, and some “reach” schools.
- Safety: Schools where you’re likely to get in. Your GPA and test scores should be higher than those of the average admitted student.
- Target: Schools where you have a fair shot – you should meet the profile for the average admitted student.
- Reach: Schools you might not get into – your GPA or test scores may be lower than their averages.
Tips to Balance Your List
- Be realistic: All the schools on your list should be places you’d actually attend! Don’t bother applying to a school you’d never consider going to.
- Balance types of schools: Include a mix of public, private, and at least one in-state school. You’ll have a better balance of school types, sizes, and price tags.
- Consider financial aid: Look into what kinds of need-based and merit-based aid are available at each school. Include some schools with good financial aid profiles on your list. Visit each school’s financial aid page to learn about what they offer.
- Safety in numbers: Most students apply to at least 8-12 colleges.
Need more help identifying the right schools for your list? Visit Decide Where to Apply.
Make a college resume
It’s very useful to create a resume, or list of your activities, interests, and accomplishments. A resume helps you keep track of achievements and dates and serves as a handy reference as you fill in your applications. You can also submit your resume as part of your application.
Not sure what to include? Work with your school counselor. Think creatively – do you take care of a younger sibling or grandparent? Cook dinner for your family sometimes? These chores demonstrate responsibility, time management, and specific skills. You may have more to add than you think!
Your resume should be clean, well-designed, and ideally one page. Check out our sample college resume for ideas.