Seniors: Too Many Colleges on Your List?


Some students have a hard time ruling out prospective colleges. You may have fallen in love with multiple campuses or be afraid you will miss something by taking a school off your list. Try this exercise to arrive at a manageable list of schools that meets your priorities:

Identify one college on your list— let’s call it College A— where you are fairly sure you can be admitted and would be excited to go. Then compare that school to every other college on your list, one at a time, and ask yourself, “Would I rather go to this college or College A?”

If your list is too large, in any case where the answer to that question is “College A,” then the other school can come off your list. After all, why would you have any colleges on your list where you like College A better?

If your list is too small, you can use this method to expand your list. If you need more choices, use College A as a benchmark and find more colleges with the same characteristics.

Just be careful to use the most specific, objective, measurable criteria available to determine that you are admissible at the school that fulfills the role of College A. A public university with more transparent admission criteria may be a safer choice for your College A, but some private colleges can fit this role as well, as long as you have up-to-date information and it is a solid on your list.

Thank you to college adviser Alice Kleeman of California's Menlo-Atherton High School for this strategy!


For more information on a list of colleges that's just right, including avoiding "Groucho Marx Syndrome" and balancing your list for selectivity and affordability, see Chapter 10, "Turning Your Initial List into Your Application List: The Eight to Ten Colleges Where You Will Apply," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step

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