Selecting colleges can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Assessing what is important to you can help you find the best college for you, so it is a great way to get started. 

Also, using tools like the College Scorecard can help you compare colleges using factors such as average annual cost, graduation rate and even the average salary of graduates. 

Your final list should be a collection of 4-8 colleges and/or universities that address all of the characteristics you are looking for in a school and that fit into the below three categories. 

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Remember, start broad then work on refining your college so that you have a few schools in each category. 

Reach

Most students have little difficulty identifying reach schools that they believe to be perfect matches for their needs. At a reach school, your credentials may not be as strong as those of students previously admitted or the school has a low acceptance rate making it hard for any student to be accepted. You should limit the number of "reach" schools on your list to 1-2 colleges. 

Possible

Your credentials for admission are truly competitive and you are qualified for admission. This is a school where you have at least a 50/50 chance of admission. We recommend having 2-4 "possible" colleges on your college list. 

Safety

Safety school are college where your credentials are very competitive and it is highly likely that you will be admitted. It is extremely important for students to find several safety schools where they truly believe they can be happy and productive. You should also make sure that at least one of your safety schools is likely to be affordable for your family. Use the school's "Net Price Calculator" usually found on the financial aid website, to determine what the average cost for a family like yours is to help determine affordability. You should apply to 2-4 safety schools. 

 

For example, let's say you are a straight-A student, did exceptionally well on your SATs, and are heavily involved in activities. Your college list might look something like this: 

  • Reach - Brown University
  • Possible - Providence College, Fairfield University, Colby College
  • Safety - Rhode Island College, University of Massachusetts