Whether or not you know what you want to study, you will do better in college if you find the right “academic fit.” Here are some things to think about.

  • Hometown: Davidson, NC/
    Kadena AFB, Okinawa, Japan
  • High School: Public
  • GPA: 4.0/4.39 (weighted)
  • ACT: 34
  • Major: Economics and mathematics
  • Goal: Prepare for law school
College Status
Columbia University Attending
Cornell University Denied
Duke University Accepted
Harvard College (EA) Denied
Oxford University Denied
Princeton University Denied
Stanford Univeristy Denied
UC Berkeley Accepted
UCLA Accepted
UNC Chapel Hill (EA) Accepted
US Air Force Academy Accepted
Yale University Waitlisted

What Will You Study

There’s a big difference between choosing a college because it is strong in your major and choosing a college to help you figure out your major. Some colleges have intense four-year major curricula and expect you to dive right in to your studies. Others help you experience different fields, then choose a major.

How You Like to Learn

At many colleges, you start out taking large classes in lecture halls, perhaps accompanied by smaller discussion groups. At other colleges, your classes may be small, offering more personal contact with professors and more interactive and collaborative methods of learning.

Level of Rigor

Academics at highly selective colleges are typically extremely challenging, competitive, and fast-paced. If this academic pressure cooker is your idea of a stimulating learning environment, these colleges may be right for you.

But if you prefer less rigor, less stress, and more nurturing, there are hundreds of other colleges for you to consider. You can still get a fantastic education at these colleges without feeling in over your head.

Academic Opportunities

Perhaps you want to work with well-known instructors, participate in groundbreaking research projects, take on internships, or even study abroad. Maybe you prefer to integrate hands-on work with formal instruction. Make sure your college offers the academic opportunities you want.

  Freshman Tasks Sophomore Tasks
All Year
  • Get to know your counselor. Together, map out a plan to take challenging courses all four years of high school.
  • Talk with your family about your ideas for college, including saving/financing plans.
  • Get involved outside class; explore your interests.
  • Notice what you enjoy studying or doing.
  • Visit a few local colleges or visit campuses while on vacation.
  • Stay in touch with your counselor.
  • Take callenging courses and do as well as you can.
  • Visit different types of colleges while they are in session.
  • Select an interest or two to pursue outside class.
  • Visit college fairs.
  • Take spring SAT Subject Tests in subjects just studied.
  Junior Tasks Senior Tasks
All Year
  • Do well in challenging academic courses.
  • Show commitment and initiative in an interest outside class.
  • Visit college fairs and attend college presentations. Connect with admissions reps.
  • Calculate admission chances and net price for each college of interest.
  • Review college saving/financing plans with your parents. Determine target net price.
  • Continue to do well in challenging academic courses.
  • Continue to pursue and show initiative in your outside interest.
  • Research and submit scholarship applications.
  • Continue to calculate chances and net price for each college of interest.
  • Confirm college financing plans with parents. Confirm target net price.
  • Show interest in colleges via college rep contact and campus visits.
Summer
  • Continue to do well in challenging academic courses.
  • Continue to pursue and show initiative in your outside interest.
  • Research and submit scholarship applications.
  • Continue to calculate chances and net price for each college of interest.
  • Confirm college financing plans with parents. Confirm target net price.
  • Show interest in colleges via college rep contact and campus visits.
  • Do well in challenging academic courses.
  • Show commitment and initiative in an interest outside class.
  • Visit college fairs and attend college presentations. Connect with admissions reps.
  • Calculate admission chances and net price for each college of interest.
  • Review college saving/financing plans with your parents. Determine target net price.

What's Next?

To see what’s ahead as you plan for college, take a look at Eight Milestones on the Road to College.

If you’re ready to get started, look over Steps to Launch Your College Journey.

If you want to dive right in and start searching for colleges, use College Match to find colleges that meet just about any criteria you can imagine, from where you want to live to what you want to study.

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