By Kerry Lynch

January 18, 2021

How many colleges should I apply to? That is the most common question asked about a college list. But at College Edge, we suggest a different question to start with: How do I build a balanced college list that will land me at my just right school? We love to answer that question!

Building a college list is a process not an event. When I say process, I mean that your list gets built in stages and will be finished when it has about ten schools, each of which you are excited about and would be happy to attend. This blog focuses on the beginning of your process and suggests how to start the journey.

The first stage in building a college list does not involve colleges at all. The first stage is the stage where you get to know yourself and consider what you must have versus what you want in a college. This is a time for personal reflection and conversation with a few people who know you well and have your best interests at heart. It is not a time to fall prey to the desires of others or what is trending among your classmates or the lure of prestige (unless prestige is a personal value.) One of the best ways to get to know yourself and then build a list of wants and needs is to take a college match survey like this excellent instrument offered by Dr. Steven R. Antonoff. Reading through and thinking carefully about your results should help you develop a clear picture of yourself as a student and also determine what your social and student engagement desires are for your college experience. After you have absorbed the lessons from the college match survey, engage in further exploration by using the College Board’s free planning website, BigFuture. You will be able to use the Big Future tools more effectively after completing the college match. It asks more practical questions such as the distance you want to go from home and school size – all things that the college match survey can help you figure out.

Maintain your list on Big Future or move it to your school Naviance Account or our Guided Path software. This list will change – and it should! Look for a future blog post on the next set of steps in the process.


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