December 20, 2023

Making A College List

‘Tis the season for list making. We all know the big guy is making a list and checking it twice. Santa knows the importance of list-making… and so do we at Class 101. Making a list is a great way to kick off your college search journey. A college list helps students identify and put down on paper (or Excel sheet) their top colleges and universities and track important information about each one. We find that sharing that list with parents, college advisors, and any adults helping students through their college search process can be a helpful way of discovering what is important to each individual student and, throughout the search process, narrowing down the list to find best-fit schools.

What is a college list?

So what is a college list? At its core, a college list is a curated selection of colleges and universities that a high school student intends to research and apply to during their college admissions process. This compilation is a strategic and thoughtful assortment of colleges that align with the student’s academic goals, personal preferences, and aspirations.

What is the purpose of a college list?

To some students, the college list feels like unnecessary extra work. They already know their first choice college, so what is the point of making a list? We find that creating a list with more than five options forces students to open their minds to college options they may not have otherwise researched. The list allows them to think a little deeper about what they really want out of college and what they want their collegiate experience to be like. It’s great that mom or dad went to a certain college and that college is on their list. Or that one of their best friends is at an awesome university and that makes the list as well. But in making their own personal list and adding additional options, the student has to focus inward and a little more intentionally on what THEY really want in college and consider that not all universities offer the same experience. A college list helps students take the time to consider the following:

● Personalized Fit
A well-crafted college list considers the unique qualities and preferences of the student. It considers factors such as academic programs, campus culture, location, size, and extracurricular opportunities to ensure a personalized fit.
● Diversity of Options
A good college list is diverse, encompassing institutions with varying levels of competitiveness. It typically includes reach schools (where admission is more challenging), match schools (where the student’s academic profile aligns with the average admitted student), and safety schools (where the student’s credentials exceed the institution’s average).


● Financial Considerations
Financial factors play a crucial role in the college decision-making process. A college list should consider the student’s budget, including tuition costs, available scholarships, and financial adoptions.


● Academic and Career Goals
The college list is tailored to the student’s academic and career goals. It includes institutions that offer strong programs in the student’s intended major and opportunities for internships, research, and career development.


● Geographic and Cultural Preferences
A student’s comfort with the geographic location and campus culture is vital. The college list takes into account whether a student prefers an urban or rural setting, a large or small campus, and the overall vibe of the institution.

The college lists serves as a guiding thread, weaving together a student’s academic ambitions, personal preferences, and budget considerations. By understanding what a college list is and how to create one, high school students can start their college search process with confidence and purpose. Remember, your college list is not just a list of schools – it’s a key tool in shaping your college planning journey.

How to make your college list?

That’s where Class 101 comes in. Our expert advisors work with students on developing their college list beginning as early as 8th grade. We take students through the process step by step and build on refining their customized list through college visits, assessments to discover strengths and identify career interests, and setting and understanding their personal goals. Reach out if you have any questions or you’re ready for help in personalized college planning.

Thanks for reading,
Randy Stegemoller

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