Putting together your final list of colleges when it comes time to apply is an art as much as it is a science.
One mistake we see many students make is that they zero in on a few colleges early on, before they have really explored all the options out there. And they often rule out colleges that would be great fits because they really don’t know anything about them.
Our favorite way for students to learn about colleges without having to travel is to make use of an old-school resource: the most recent edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges. An oldie but a goodie, the Fiske Guide has narrative descriptions of more than 320 selective colleges. The descriptions are short and easily digested and should give you a good sense of whether you’d like to learn more about the college or not.
If you’re up for the challenge of opening your mind to adding colleges to your list, then order a copy of the Fiske Guide and do the following exercise…
Another way to do this exercise is to involve your parents or your friends and get their insights on colleges that you should investigate further. If you are involving your parents, then you give them the list for the category you have chosen. Have them read the descriptions and pick three colleges for you to investigate further. If you are involving your friends, then you swap lists – you read the descriptions for the colleges on your friend’s list and suggest three that your friend should investigate further and your friend reads the descriptions for the colleges on your list and recommends three colleges for you to investigate further.
Even if you don’t end up adding any colleges to your list from this exercise, you’ll benefit from knowing that you explored your options!
Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.