As the school year comes to a close, we begin asking juniors to finalize their college list. We’ve spent time making recommendations and doing research together to find the perfect list of colleges to apply to. But if you’re just getting started with your college planning or aren’t as close to that final list, you might be wondering what the big deal is with college lists. Especially if you already have your eyes set on your dream school, you might be thinking, “What’s the point?” 

To start, a strong college list includes around 7-10 colleges that you could see yourself attending. You’ll want to make sure there’s a range of safety, target, and reach schools on that list as well. Or in other words, you’ll want to make sure there’s a few schools that you have a really good chance of getting into, some that match your academic profile, and then a couple that you’d love to go to but are a bit more difficult to get into. 

Doing your research ahead of time and settling on a final list of colleges in each category to apply to is important for a few reasons:

  1. Creating Options: Having a range of safety, target, and reach schools is important whether you have a top choice school or not because it gives you more options. For example, if you have your hopes set on Yale, but it’s more of a reach school, you want to make sure to do your research ahead of time and apply to some solid safety and target schools that you would be happy attending just in case you don’t get into Yale. It’s also a good idea because it creates more opportunities for financial aid. Even though safety schools aren’t at the top of the list for a lot of students, those are the schools that tend to offer larger financial aid awards. Since cost is often a big factor in college selection, it’s good to have some safety options that are more cost effective.
  1. Shifting Your Focus: Settling on a final college list towards the end of the school year is important because as summer begins, it’s ideal to start shifting your focus from researching colleges to actually starting your college essays and applications. The summer before your senior year is the best time to work on your essays and applications so that you can go into the school year with the bulk of your applications finished and significantly less stress. Without a final college list, you won’t know which applications to focus on and it will be more difficult to get more accomplished throughout the summer. 
  1. Making it Manageable: To add to the last point, finalizing your college list is incredibly important in helping you make a plan and stay on track. Each college has different application deadlines, essays, and requirements, which can be really difficult to keep track of. It gets even more overwhelming if you’re not sure which colleges you’re actually planning to apply to or if you have way too many schools on your list, so doing your research and deciding on a list of 7-10 colleges before you begin will make the process much smoother and more manageable. 

If you haven’t made a college list yet or aren’t sure if your list is strong, it’s not too late! We love helping students create the perfect college list to fit academically, socially, and financially, and now is a great time to get started.

Until Next Time,

Megan Bugarin

College Admissions Consultant 

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