What's a balanced college list?  Simply put, a list that includes schools that are virtually guaranteed to accept you, schools that accept students with records very similar to yours, and schools that are a bit of a stretch for

you – aptly called “reach” schools.
 
But for a list to be truly useful, every school on it should be a place you want to go to, a place where you can thrive.  Finding out which schools fit this overall requirement takes some work. 
 
Here are a few steps that will help you get started in putting together your college list:

 
Figure Out Your Preferences

Establish a list of characteristics your ideal school will have.  Include things like location, size, student/teacher ratio, majors available, and extra-curriculars.

Do Research

Use the extraordinary resources on the internet to learn which schools have what you’re looking for.  This includes college search engines as well each school’s own website.

Evaluate and Rank Your Chances

Once you've built a general list, review information on the average GPA and test scores for each college and how you measure up.  Then you can rank your chances and ensure you are assembling a balanced list.

Visit and Connect
Visit as many campuses as you can--even colleges that you're not interested in--just to get a feel for the differences between schools.  In addition, attend college rep meetings at your school and local college fairs to learn more about schools of interests.
 
Check for Financial Friendliness

We never advise that you consider colleges based on sticker price because the net price to your family often ends up being very different.  Still, understanding a school's track record on giving both need-based and merit-based financial aid helps in strategically building your list.

So start building your list early on, but remember that it will likely go through lots of revisions over time as you learn more and crystalize your wants and needs.

 

Our Take

"Thank you for helping me to receive the opportunity to go to such a great school.  I appreciate your help more than you know!"
 

-Alexis

UC Berkeley

 

"Thank you for all of your help and support.  I would never have been able to do it without you."

 

-Allison

University of Pennsylvania

Class of 2021

 

"The BIGGEST heartfelt thank you.  We dropped our daughter off at college today.  University of Hartford.  FULL RIDE.  We truly believe that the help you provided her with was a significant part of this achievement."

 

-Tom and Cristina,

parents of Ruby

University of Hartford

Class of 2019

 

"I got into UCLA!!!  I want to say thank you.  I couldn't have done it without you."

 

-Devon

Transfer to UCLA

Class of 2018

 

A Guide to a Balanced College List