College List Basics

College is not a race to be won, but a match to be made!
-Frank Sachs

Creating the college list and eventually choosing a place to spend the next four years is a journey. For many students, choosing a college is the first big adult decision they will make in their lives.  It is, quite possibly, the most important part of the entire college application process.  Treat the decision making process seriously, because your future depends on it!  

TIP ONE: School size matters

Big school?  Small school?  Before adding a school to your list, consider what type of environment fits you best.  College options range from schools with a few hundred to tens of thousands of students studying on the same campus.  Create a list of needs and wants, likes and dislikes before becoming attached to a potential school.  Make sure that each school you put on your list matches up with what you are looking for so that every school on your list is a “best fit” for you.

TIP TWO: Consider private colleges and universities

It is a proven fact that private colleges offer more financial aid than their public counterparts.  Because they are not funded by government entities, private colleges have much more flexibility in choosing who qualifies for aid and who does not.  Many also have incredibly large endowments which give them even more financial leverage.  Private schools often end up being the most economical choice for middle class families that have a high EFC (expected family contribution) and do not qualify for much federal financial aid.  In addition, many private schools are completely free if your family falls below certain income thresholds.  Regardless of your situation, don’t count them out!

TIP THREE: Make sure your major is offered

This may seem like a silly tip, but you’d be surprised at how many people enroll in schools without reading the list of offered majors.  For instance, did you know that most ivy league schools do not offer business as an undergraduate major?  This is only one of countless examples.  Do your homework and make sure that what you want to study is offered at the schools that interest you.  For those of you who are “undecided”, keep in mind that larger schools usually offer a wider range of concentrations than smaller institutions.

TIP FOUR: Consider location, location, location!

Like size, the location of a school could have a big impact on your ability to be successful.  Consider the distance you may put between yourself and your family and friends.  Do you want to see your parents every weekend?  If so, you may not want to venture too far from home.  Do you prefer a traditional campus environment, or would you like to study in the middle of a large city?  Would going to school at or near the beach impact your ability to get your schoolwork done?  Make sure that you ask yourself these (and many more!) questions before falling in love with a school.


Karl Lenss is the managing director of Academic Angle. He can be reached at

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