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How Do I Know When My College List Is Finally Complete?

How do you know when your college list is complete? Here are some questions to ask yourself, as recommended by college admission experts, to finalize it.

CX Experts generic imageRebecca VanderMeulen
High School Counselor
Freelancer Writer

How do you know when your list of colleges to apply to is final? We asked experts who specialize in helping students apply to college. Below you’ll find their seven signs you can be confident with your final college list. You’ve probably heard that you need to apply to X amount of safety schools, Y dream schools, and Z schools that are a perfect match. That’s not necessarily true. Your college list is set “when you feel comfortable and confident that each school fits your criteria,” says Mark Montgomery of Great College Advice. 

  • Can you reasonably expect to get into the colleges and universities on your list? Compare your grades and test scores with the most recent average admitted student’s stats. If your numbers fall into that range, it’s a good sign the school belongs on your final list.
  • Would you be excited about going to your safety schools? Of course, you’d be ecstatic about going to your dream college—but think about your safety schools. Do they have everything you’re looking for? Would you be proud to wear that hoodie? If you said “yes,” Montgomery says that’s a sign you have a final college list you can feel good about.
  • Do you feel comfortable at all the schools you’re applying to? Think about how you learn best, advises Stuart Nachbar, college counselor with Educated Quest. Maybe you need small classes or think most clearly when you’re out in nature. Each college you apply to should have whatever will help you be most successful.
  • Would you find your niche at each school? Think about how you felt when visiting campus. Could you find the crowd of students you want to be around? That’s important because college is about so much more than going to class. “It’s hard to succeed in college when you don’t make friends,” Nachbar says. “When you get a degree, you should have a network that will help you for the rest of your life.”
  • Do all the schools on your list have what you want? What are you hoping to get out of college? A top-quality finance degree and the chance to be recruited by Fortune 500 companies? Connection with a strong faith-based community? Preparation for medical school? Nachbar stresses that each college on your list needs to be capable of helping you reach your specific goals.

Final advice: Don’t be afraid to tweak your final college list. “The reality is things can change at any time,” Montgomery says. If that’s the case, it’s fine to change your list. Just make sure you’re applying to colleges that fit the criteria above and will help you reach your goals.

Once you’ve applied to your schools and are wondering how to choose between your acceptances, you can find helpful tips here!

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