3 Steps to Creating a College List

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Do you want to know how to build a college list? Make sure to follow these tips.

How Do You Figure Out Which Colleges to Apply To?

Finding colleges that fit you best begins with self-discovery getting to know your interests, your goals, and what's most important to you. These seven steps will get you started on the right path.

1. Ask yourself some questions.

Building a college list requires answering questions to help you focus your college search. Visit College Search Step-by-Step to learn about basic college categories and find answers to questions about your preferences.

2. Search for Colleges.

Use College Search to find colleges that match your preferences. Search for colleges by location, major, size, and more. There's guidance to help you along the way so that you can start building a college list.

3. Add Colleges to Your List.

Check out individual profiles of the colleges that come up in your College Search results. When you see a college you like, click Add to List to save it to a favorites list. You can return to it later and refine your list as you go along.

What Now?

For more about searching for colleges, visit How to Find a College That Fits You.


When should I build my college list?

Knowing when and how to create a college list is a crucial step in the college admissions process. Start creating your college list as early as possible. Starting early gives you more time to thoroughly research and explore different colleges and universities that align with your academic, personal, and career goals.

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How many colleges should be on your college list?

Once you’ve made a list of colleges you’re interested in, narrow it down to the colleges that are a good fit and where you plan to apply. You’ll need a minimum of six colleges on your list, including 3 reach, 2 match, and 1 safety. This will ensure your college list is balanced.

  • Reach: Your SAT score, ACT score or estimated GPA is lower than the average score range of last year’s first-year class—but don’t let that stop you! Colleges consider a range of factors during the admissions process.
  • Match: Your SAT score, ACT score or estimated GPA is solidly in the same score range as last year’s first-year class.
  • Safety: Your SAT score, ACT score or estimated GPA is higher than the average score range of last year’s first-year class.

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Can a free college search help build a list?

A free college search can be a valuable tool to help build your college list. These searches allow you to input your preferences, such as desired location, academic interests, size of the institution, and other criteria.

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