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As a College Graduate, your Alma Mater will symbolize many things: four years of growth and development, many fond memories, a source of pride and perhaps most importantly, the educational foundation upon which you will build the rest of your life.  The quality of your education will most likely have a significant influence on your success in life.  It is therefore essential that you take great care in choosing and applying to several different potential colleges and universities.

There are more than 3,200 accredited institutions of higher education in the United States.  How will you go from a high school student to a college freshman at only ONE of them?  The answer is by following the steps of a sequential process to narrow your choices and gain admission.

You must first dedicate the time necessary to research and find the schools that offer what you want and need.  You must then develop a successful application package based on the qualifications that schools are seeking in their students.  Finally, you must visit the schools to determine which ones are the best fit for your needs.

You should begin your college search with this question: What is the ideal college for me?  Which colleges and/or universities offer the courses of study, campus size, geographical location, extracurricular activities, quality of faculty and political atmosphere that I want or need in a school?  Ideally, your final college should meet, or even exceed, all of your desired criteria.

Don’t fall into the trap of selecting your college for the wrong reasons – where your friends are going, where Mom or Dad went, or where you think you can afford.  The wrong school choice could equal lost time and money.


Consider the following when compiling and narrowing your list of possible colleges to help make the process more manageable:

  • Graduation rate
  • Don’t be overly concerned with the cost of attendance
  • Look past the football team and reputations
  • Although you need a safety school, set your goals high
  • Spend time looking for similar schools
  • The other students – lifetime relationships in many cases

2 Strategies & 3 Steps

Keep these two strategies in mind during your college search:

  • Shop for exactly what you are looking for in a college.  You will likely spend four to five years there so you want to find the “perfect” match.
  • Keep your college selection options open.  Don’t rule out any type of school to begin with, not even the most expensive private schools!

The college search and selection process is best divided into the following three specific steps:

  • Compile your original list of colleges that interest you based on specific criteria (majors offered, size, location, etc.).  Your original list of schools should include 20 to 30 potential schools that meet most (or all) of your general selection criteria.
  • Narrow your list of possible colleges to between eight and ten by doing further research into the original list of institutions you selected.  At this point you will be able to eliminate institutions from your original list based on more specific criteria.
  • Finally, cut your list to six (6) finalists.  You will be able to do more extensive research on this smaller list of finalists.  Your final six colleges are the ones to which you will actually apply for admission.

Important Tip – You should visit the campuses of all six of your finalists to determine if their environments are suitable to your particular needs.  You will then be able to arrange your six finalists in order of preference.  You should have four top choices listed in order, along with a safety school (where you are practically guaranteed admission) and a long shot school (an institution where your qualifications may secure you enrollment, but you are not sure).