List Important Traits

Choosing a college is a big decision and so it is important that you choose carefully. Think about what traits are most important to you in a potential college—the set of criteria that will make you happy to spend the next few years at the school of your choice. These could include:

  1. Location - Do you want to move somewhere new to go to school? Can you afford to move far away? Do you plan on living with your family or on campus?
  2. Majors offered - If you have an idea of what you want to study, or a general field of interest, find schools that can accommodate that interest.
  3. The size of the school - Do you prefer a large student body or a small one? What kind of class size do you feel more comfortable in? Do you learn more easily in large classes or small ones?
  4. Cost - Is it affordable?
  5. Financial aid packages they typically award - If it isn't affordable out of pocket, can financial aid help make it affordable for you?
  6. Extracurriculars offered - Are there extracurricular sports or clubs that you are currently involved in that you would like to continue being involved in? Does the school offer new extracurricular activities for you that your high school didn't?
  7. The character of the campus - Would you rather be on an urban campus in a bustling big city or a quiet peaceful campus in the country? What does the student body do on campus when they aren't in class?

Research Colleges

After you've made a comprehensive list of your desired traits, begin searching for schools that match them. Begin putting together a list of potential colleges and weighing them against one another. Keep in mind not just the traits important to you, but also the average academic credentials necessary to be accepted to each school so that your list includes safety, match, and reach schools. You can use the following tools to start finding colleges, but don't hesitate to ask your college prep adviser what they've heard about a given school or what schools they might recommend.

  1. Collegeboard's BigFuture College Search Tool
  2. Peterson's College Search Engine
  3. Campus Explore
  4. Online search tool for PA schools
  5. CampusTours Allows prospective students to virtually tour thousands of college campuses with interactive maps, photos, and videos.

Make sure to watch out for online degree fraud and scam colleges! Learn to spot a fake degree mill.

Contact Colleges

Once you have a list of colleges that interest you, it's time to reach out to them for more information. Make an effort to learn more, communicating directly with the school and getting a feel for it.
This could include:

  1. Registering for their mailing list
  2. Requesting more information
  3. Scheduling a tour of the campus
  4. Scheduling an interview
  5. Visit their table at a college fair

Finalize and Stay Organized

The last step is to break the schools you've researched into a final list of colleges you will apply to. Try to condense your choices into a couple safety schools, a few match schools, and some reach schools. The application process can be lengthy and difficult, so be realistic about how many applications you will be able to send.

Organize Your List

Utilize this organizational chart to stay on top of the important application deadlines and other documents you will need on your journey to higher education!

Get into the College of Your Choice

Have the confidence to ACE your college interview with help from these questions!

Additional Resources