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How to Choose Your Top College Priorities

female college student

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 blog posts in CollegeData's Resources 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 CollegeData's College Search, college websites, 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 some colleges off your list and adding others in their place. That's to be expected, and it is critical to finding the best college for you.

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