Print Print

Building a Balanced List

The list of colleges you are interested in will evolve greatly during the admissions process, and it is important to proactively research your options. Websites (College Board and College Greenlight), college guidebooks, your high school’s college/career center, and the public library are great sources of information.

Explore schools that fit your academic profile (meaning GPA and standardized test scores) as well as your personal and career interests.  Don’t focus too much on cost at the beginning of your search as most selective colleges offer generous financial aid packages. You should look at schools that fall into three categories:

  • Reach Schools — Your GPA and standardized test scores fall at or below the school’s published data on accepted students and/or the acceptance rate is less than 30%.
  • Target Schools — Your GPA and standardized test scores fit the school’s published data on accepted students and the acceptance rate is around 30% - 60%.
  • Likely Schools — Your GPA and standardized test scores are at or above the school’s published data on accepted students and the acceptance rate is 60% or higher.

As you conduct your research, you might consider using this Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Research Worksheet to organize your findings.

When you craft your final list of 8-12 colleges to which you will ultimately apply, you should include schools from each category based on the following approximate distribution. Your final list of colleges should include:

  • 2 – 3 Reach Schools
  • 4 – 5 Target Schools
  • 2 – 3 Likely Schools

Continue Reading ->