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When Should I Start Making a College List?

It is never too early to start making a college list, but if you are a high school junior, NOW is the time to start. Every time you walk on a college campus to attend a game, performance, concert, or camp, you begin to evaluate the school.

Visiting college campuses can help you determine what you DON’T want. It allows you to eliminate types of colleges. Determine your wants and needs. You will spend 4 years there, so the right fit is essential. A great academic fit is a priority, but other factors come into play when looking for your perfect college.

Academic Fit: Does the college have the majors you are considering studying? Analyze your academic resume through the eyes of a college admissions officer. Your high school GPA will likely be recalculated based on the academic core courses (English, math, science, social studies, world language, and in some cases, technology). Recalculating your GPA and using your ACT or SAT score (whether you submit it or not) to determine where it lies within the school’s 25 - 75 percentile will help you determine your fit.

College Campus: Is the location (weather, urban, suburban, rural, distance from home and shopping) right for you? When you look around, do the students look like they could be your friends? Do the housing options fit your needs? Is it the right size (very small, small, medium, large, or very large)?

Campus Life: Are there a variety of clubs, organizations, Greek life, and religious affiliations that can positively affect your college experience and allow you to engage in your campus community? Does the campus have the diversity you are looking for as a student? Are there resources for support, inviting study locations, and study abroad programs?

Financial Options: Is it realistic to attend this school without financial aid? Is this school a financial burden on your family? Would you create substantial debt to attend?

Common Mistakes: Many families overreach when placing schools on their teen’s college list. Do the

Do institutional priorities fit your priorities? Aligning your values will make your experience more rewarding.

How do you choose colleges to put on your list, and where do they fall?

Your college list will change as components of your profile (test scores, course rigor, GPA) unfold. You may have to adjust your list as you grow and change, but that is the exciting part.

How to Compile Your List: Many students keep a notebook, spreadsheet, or GoogleDocs to record important information about each school. Remember, the more colleges you visit, the more they blur together. Whichever method works for you, use it to record facts, information, and your thoughts about each school to compare and evaluate each school with a quick glance at your notes.

Now is the perfect time to start your college visits. Whether it is an official visit, a drive-by, a virtual visit, or a self-guided tour, get out there and discover what you are looking for in your dream college.

Suppose you need assistance finding schools to add to your list, boosting your student profile, structuring your most valuable and rigorous high school schedule and experience, or working on your personal statement and applications. In that case, Prestigious Pathways is always here to help you and your family.

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