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Your College List: Step by Step

A College List is a working list of schools you might be interested in applying to. While you’re looking, the list can be as big as you want. Ultimately, you’ll narrow it down and apply to about six to nine schools. Your goal is to find a good fit for you. By the beginning of senior year, you should have some idea of schools you want to apply to, even if you continue to refine your list all fall.


To find the right college, know what you want. These self-surveys are a quick way to clarify what you’re looking for.


  • Corsava has a fun card sort that will help you identify what you want in a college in just a few minutes. If nothing else, do this.

  • College Blueprint: A Guide to Choosing the Best School for You, by Stephen Antonoff, is a book available in the CCC, but the helpful self-surveys are also available online at School Buff. These are more in-depth and include:

    • Self-Survey for the College Bound–what kind of student are you?

    • College Planning Values Assessment—what are your educational priorities?

    • Audit of College Success Traits—what are your strengths and weaknesses as a student?

    • Qualities That Will Make a College Right for You—rate college qualities like size, student life, cost, location, and more.

  • GA Futures has links to assessments that will help you figure out your career interests, including:

  • My Next Move, to help you find your career path, and

  • The O*Net Interest Profiler, a fun way to help you figure out what you enjoy doing.

Know Yourself


Once you know what you’re looking for, it will be a lot easier to find it. Visit some of these college search engines: just type in what you’re looking for to generate a list of schools that fit your criteria. Use several different websites—if the same college keeps popping up, it’s should probably go on your list.

Here are some great websites to use in your search:

And don’t forget about books! The CCC library has lots of books to help you learn about

different colleges. It may be old school, but these can be helpful.

Find Schools that Fit Your Needs


Once you have a list of schools that seem like a good fit for you, it’s time to dig deeper. Visit each school’s website and learn more. Look up programs and departments that you’re interested in. The Fiske Guide is a valuable resource book in the CCC. Read the entries for schools you’re considering; it also suggests related schools you may not know about.

Visit colleges you like if possible, and take virtual tours if you can’t visit in person.

Do Your Research


This is a great area for parents to get involved. Find a system that works for you. It might be a spreadsheet that both you and your parents have access to—you can add columns to track and compare the most important factors for you. It may be a binder with a tab for each school or a file box with folders. Many of the websites you used to search for schools can also allow you to create a search profile and organize your information, and the Common App site is also helpful for organizing your list. Your organizational system will probably be a combination of things— see what works for you.

Get Organized


Your list should include some schools from each category. You’ll need to know your GPA and test scores (if you’re submitting them). Request a transcript from Parchment to see your official GPA. The CCC recommends including on your list at least one Georgia school in each category.

  • Reach schools are ones where your class rank, GPA, or test scores might be below or barely within the mid-range for the school’s admitted students. These are often competitive and admit a low percentage of applicants.

  • Probable schools are a realistic choice with a good match between your GPA and test scores and those of the mid-range of the school’s admitted students.

  • Safety schools are ones where your GPA and test scores are higher than the mid-range for the school’s admitted students.

    Strong academic students (GPA 3.2 or above) should also consider an Honors College with a Georgia school as a safety option they can feel good about.

    Also consider financial reach, probable, and safety schools, but don’t eliminate schools based on their published “sticker price.” Private schools often offer the most financial aid, so they may be more affordable than you think.

Include Reach, Probable, and Safety Schools


By October of your senior year, you should narrow your list. Aim to apply to six to nine schools. Pay close attention to application deadlines. If you want to apply to a school that requires SAT subject tests (many of the more selective schools do), plan to take those no later than October.

Narrow your List


Once you’ve finalized your list, it’s time to apply. Remember: you do not have to wait until the deadline to submit your application!


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