Juniors: The First Step in Crafting a Preliminary List of Colleges

Your task in the next few months is to turn a four-digit universe—2,675 colleges— into a two-digit preliminary list of possibilities: the dozen or more schools you think you might like to attend. Step one in this process: Research yourself. What do you want? Before you start asking how schools are going to see you, think first about how you see yourself.

It is crucial that you set time aside to think deeply about this next phase of your life: what you want out of it, what you absolutely need to have, what you can and can't live without for four years, etc. If you  are so overloaded with activities and academics that you do not take the time for self-reflection in this process, that's a mistake. Because you will end up with choices you are not truly happy with and cannot own.

Start by examining your preferences, priorities, interests, and hopes. You can fnd personality tests and “interest inventories” in some reference guidebooks such as the Fiske Guide to Colleges, or online with a Web- based service such as Naviance. Some of you may seek out friends, family, and guidance counselors to help you. Here are some questions from us about your interests and activities to help you get started:

1. What is your favorite thing to do?

2. What inspires you?

3. Which activity have you pursued outside of school that has been most meaningful to you?

4. What do you hate to do?

5. What are your favorite . . .

a. Books

b. Movies

c. Websites

d. News sources

e. Food

f. Type of music

g. TV shows

h. Sports

6. How much do you genuinely like to read, discuss issues, and exchange ideas?

7. What did you do last summer? What do you plan to do this summer?

8. Is there a career you’ve always dreamed of?

9. Do you see yourself as politically liberal or conservative?

10. Is there an issue of local, national, or international concern that you find compelling?


For more information on the crafting a preliminary list of colleges, see Chapter 8, "Creating an Initial List of Colleges" in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step. And find some good objective colleges guides on our Resources page here.


I think it is important for students to consider a wide range of schools to begin with because too many limit their college opportunities. The list can and will be narrowed down as students research each school and determine those that seem to be a good fit.


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