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January 1, 2021

You’re a Junior and it’s Time to Build a College List


You knew you were always going to college. It was a reality you knew since middle school. It wasn’t debatable, nor negotiable. College was in your future. Now it is time to decide among which colleges will you apply. In this blog, we’ll help you navigate this process.


  1. Know Thyself
  2. Know the Destination
  3. College Rankings
  4. Create Your own College Criteria
  5. It is all about Fit

Know Thyself

  • Keeping in mind that there are over 4000 colleges in the US, it would be quite naïve to assume that only Harvard, or fill in the blank “X” college, is the best college for you. Conservatively, there are at least hundreds of good colleges. In other words, there is a great misconception that only the Ivies and a few other top colleges are the only good universities in the US. If you discover your interests, visions and goals with clarity and specificity, you’ll be able to create a preliminary list of approximately 1 or 2 dozen colleges and find 10 or 12 that match your needs and requirements to reach your goals. Don’t feel the need to fit into the college’s culture and curriculum. The college should meet your criteria; not the other way around. What is your intended major? What career do you pursue? What are you looking for in a college? These are important questions to ask yourself before you build a list.

Know the Destination

  • Once you know your requirements, you can search for colleges that meet your expectations and your needs. Colleges are not the same. Each Ivy is extremely different from the others. Not surprisingly, each of the 10 University of California colleges are different from each other, in regards to climate, courses and culture. Only after proper research can you find colleges you’ll be happy attending and that will help you reach your goals.


College Rankings


  • There are numerous college rankings, US News, Forbes and Niche to name a few. Just as someone’s best music playlist may be far from what you consider the best, these college rankings may use criteria that mean little to you. Harvard, while on many rankings top list of colleges, may be an absolute poor choice for you. Perhaps you despise the snow and frigid temperatures. Perhaps you’ll be homesick with family living far from New England. Use the rankings cautiously. Prestige alone is not a reason to choose a college.


Create Your Own College Criteria


         As follow up, use college rankings as a guide. But create your own ranking in order to find the colleges that are a great      match for you and increase your chance of acceptance.

  • Student Body Size: less than 3000, 3000 – 10,000, above 10,000
  • Culture
  • Curriculum
  • Clubs
  • Social Life
  • Faculty: Student ratio: high vs low
  • Campus size: Columbia is 36 acres. Stanford is 8180 acres.
  • Private vs Public
  • College vs University
  • Special Focus: i.e. Art, Single Sex, Religious
  • Research University
  • Premier Faculty & Resources: i.e. libraries, facilities and endowment
  • Geography: Northeast, South, West, Midwest, International
  • Proximity to Family
  • Climate
  • Alumni Network
  • Selectivity/Prestige
  • Urban vs Suburban vs Rural
  • Career & Peer Advising
  • Net Cost
  • Housing
  • Diversity

It is all about Fit

  • Many students buy a car to meet their needs; four doors, fuel efficient and favorite color to name a few. Others buy a special outfit for that special event. Colleges require similar attention as they are as varied as cars and events. They are not the same. If you apply to a college where you’re are a mismatch, the college will sense it and you’ve waisted your time and money. Whereas, if you make the case that you’re a great match, you increase your chances immeasurably of getting into your top choice colleges. However, even with a great match, college admissions rates to elite colleges is rare.


Take Home Message

  • Use your knowledge, your logic and your wisdom to select your colleges, not your emotions to choose your colleges.

Need help applying to college? Contact Ivy Bound at mrichardson@ivybound.com or text Dr. Richardson at 609.608.6258.