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How to Apply to Selective Colleges and Universities

The college search is about finding schools that match your abilities and interests, as well as help you to reach your personal goals.  When considering whether a school “fits” you, think about: size, location, distance from home, programs of study, extracurricular activities, diversity, and student life, among others. 

When considering fit, ask yourself: 

  • How far away do I want to be from home? A car ride, train ride, or plane ride away? (Consider costs for travel home during school vacations.)
  • Do I want a small community where I recognize almost every face as I walk around my college campus (and have people recognize me) or would I rather be in a bigger place where I can be a bit more anonymous?
  • Do I learn best in larger lectures or do I prefer smaller discussion-based classes?
  • Does the idea of attending college in a big city excite or frighten me?  How do I feel about living in a more rural or quiet setting?    
  • What top three academic programs would my ideal college offer? What major or minor am I most interested in?
  • What top three extracurricular activities would the ideal college have for me?
  • What additional features would the ideal college for me have (e.g. writing center, math center, honor code, learning support center, access to a particular religious community)?
  • What kinds of people do I like spending time with or want to spend time with in college?  Artsy?  Athletic?  Passionate about helping others?  Studious?  Social?
  • What have I liked most about high school (consider size, extracurricular offerings, relationships with teachers, etc.)?
  • What have I liked least about high school (consider size, extracurricular offerings, relationships with teachers, etc.)?

Use your answers to guide your college fit exploration.  For example, your answers regarding your high school experience can help you look for colleges that replicate aspects you love and alter those aspects you’d like to change.

We encourage you to follow these links to websites that can help you get started finding colleges that fit you and your interests:

Researching a variety of schools will help you build a balanced list of schools to which you will ultimately apply.

Watch our recent webinar!

Learn best practices and strategies for submitting a competive application. Cooke Foundation staff cover details on eligibility requirements, deadlines, and answer attendees' questions about this opportunity. View a recording.

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