Are you ready to take a closer look at what really makes a college a great college—great for you, that is?
Do you have some ideas about what your perfect college is like? It's time to "connect the dots" and clarify your priorities. Expect your ideas to evolve as you get a clearer picture of your "ideal" college.
1. Write Down Your College Priorities...So Far
Write down all your priorities for your ideal college, from deal-breaking to nice-to-have. There's nothing more clarifying than looking at your hopes and dreams in black and white! Writing each requirement on an index card is helpful, but any kind of list will work.
If you don't have any priorities yet, take a look at the other articles in this section of CollegeData to get ideas. Talk about college with family members, your counselor, and friends in college. Visit a few college campuses.
2. Sort Your College Requirements by Importance
Divide your college requirements into three categories: "must have," "would like," and "tie breakers." Be honest with yourself.
- Which qualities will help you in your long-term plans? These are "must-haves." Example: It has a great program to help me choose a major.
- Which qualities will greatly benefit you during college? These are "would-likes." Example: It's within 200 miles of home.
- Which qualities might make college life more interesting? These are tiebreakers. Example: I can play my sport for fun.
3. Rank Your Requirements
Within each category, rank college qualities the same way: as must-have, would-like, or tiebreakers. This step not only clarifies your priorities, but provides you with strong arguments and reasons for each requirement, in case others question them.
4. Go Ahead and Search for Some Colleges
It's time to begin searching for colleges that meet your top requirements. If you already have an initial list of colleges, identify the ones that best match these requirements and continue searching for more candidates. Use College Match, college guidebooks, and talk with your counselor.
5. Let It Evolve
Here comes the most important part of the process! As you learn more about colleges and your preferences and needs, you will likely find yourself changing your priorities and taking colleges on and off your list. That's to be expected, and it is critical to finding the best college for you.
- Five Steps to Begin Your College Search gives you tips for starting your search.
- College Match can help you learn more about colleges that match your requirements.
- Use Admissions Tracker to see how the qualifications and backgrounds of admitted students match yours.
- Go to College Buzz to see how real college students discovered what they wanted in their ideal colleges.