fbpx Calling all future Computer Scientists! Join us on Sept 28 to learn how you can build a powerful profile for your CS admissions.

How to Build Your College List

There are so many college ranking systems – US News might be the most famous one in the USA, but there are also lists from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. Can’t you just copy/paste a college list from one of these and call it a day?

Nope!

Because these lists often include hundreds and hundreds of schools, after seeing the common “name-brand” choices, they might just blend together so that you mentally check out – and overlook many excellent choices. Or maybe you decide against applying to certain schools because of the sheer intimidation factor. The rankings systems at best could be a place to start your research but you cannot substitute their judgment for yours!

 

College List Insight #1: RESEARCH, RESEARCH, AND MORE RESEARCH

knowing your priorities and asking universities the right questions can help you build a personalized college listYou will need to make a customized list for yourself for deciding where exactly you would like to apply. Yes, that means doing all kinds of research to get to know colleges to see what would be a great fit for you. It means attending in-person or virtual events to get to know the student body and personnel. It means really digging deep to understand what is most important to you as you emerge from high school. What is really going to help you grow? What do you really need? Reflecting on your wants, needs, and goals is essential for making a good college list. What if you have no idea what you are looking for? Then, start as soon as possible to take stock and identify what are the deal-breakers for you.

One of my students told me that she could not apply anywhere close to skiing sites because she would ditch school for skiing and not study at all. This was incredibly honest of her! Indeed, she ended up applying and ultimately attending *flat* locales (and was very happy).

 

College List Insight #2: SEE YOURSELF AT THE COLLEGE

As much care as you might put into choosing your next pair of shoes, you will want to put one thousand times that effort when you are looking at colleges. How much time do students spend on their classes? Do they connect with professors? Are you extremely independent about academics? Or is having a community of utmost importance? You can look at what majors are popular at a college, or one which is impacted (ones for which demand is greater than supply). What kinds of extracurricular activities, hands-on work or real-world experiences can you access through that college? How do you want to meet schoolmates? If you have loved music all your life as a performer, is there a way for you to continue channeling that joy where you land?

Summer Plans? Top 10 Summer Tasks for College Admissions

 

College List Insight #3: HOW DO YOU LOVE TO LEARN – AND LIVE?

For any college on your list, are you feeling like the college matches how you see learning – and does it meet you where you are at, right now in your learning journey? It won’t just be your brain going to college – it will be your entire personality. I heard from a senior who told me that she was so glad that she did not “live” for colleges – she lived her high school life with enjoyment and spent time doing what she loved – without regrets. She told me, “I put myself first.” That might seem obvious – who would not put themselves first – but that is not what everyone does in high school.

Building a college list is about best-fit for you not rankingI think this sentiment is important because so many students are scared about being authentic and allow colleges to dictate what they do. Choosing colleges that match who YOU are is so much more important than trying to fit into what you think they want from you. Keeping this in mind – that you are focusing on you – as you look for colleges that you want to consider for your college list – will help you stay centered and calm.

 

Takeaways

– Think about how you truly love to learn, and what you need to do that
– Lovingly research each college, allocating plenty of time to do so
– Try to imagine your life at the college – even if that seems very fuzzy right now
– Check for obvious deal-breakers
– Stay calm and centered by matching colleges which are going to be a great fit for YOU!

 

Read more:  Balance Your College List: Really Focus on What YOU Want

 


Written by Meilin Obinata

This article is written by Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata.

Meilin Obinata is a Senior College Counselor who enjoys learning from her students. She believes education is a creative endeavor and creates a space that allows students to explore new ideas. As a Bay Area native who grew up in Santa Cruz, she is familiar with the local schools. Read her full bio here.

Blog Post

What Are Insight Students & Parents saying?
  • I liked the structured method by which Zach approached the whole admission process. First, there was research into colleges to make a list, then a rigorous back and forth on the essays and finally meticulous approval on the final application. My son learned a lot from Zach and we are hoping he will apply these […]

  • Priya was absolutely amazing to work with! We are thrilled that our son got into his top choice for college at LMU for the undergraduate business program. We couldn’t have done this without Priya and Insight’s expert guidance and support.

  • Thank you so much for helping me formulate my thoughts into words and help me write my essays. I got into Ut Austin for biology – still waiting for the Honors decision. I also got into Drexel undergrad – still waiting for the BSMD decision.

  • I just wanted to thank you again for your help during the college admission process. My family and I have been scrambling to figure out the process for years, and especially coming from an immigrant family and being the first in my family to go to college in the US, there was a lot of […]

  • I really couldn’t have gotten to Harvard without you. In shock. Thank you x10000000000000! I have the best college counselor in the world!

  • I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time out of your day to organize a meeting with me and help me in writing my summer program essays. Your feedback really helped my writing and me as a writer. 

  • I just got my SAT scores on Friday, and I am happy to let you know that I scored an 800 on both the Biology-M and Math II tests. Thank you so much for your help and constantly encouraging me. Also, please thank the rest of the Insight team for me for providing complimentary practice […]

  • Our ACT instructor methods were so helpful and wonderful to have.

  • Zach, thank you so much for helping me become a confident and successful writer

  • We were extremely happy throughout the process – got much more than what we invested in Insight counseling.

Contact Us