Are you in high school and are wondering how to put together a good college list? In this blog, we’ll give you pointers on how to build your college list.

The three tiers we recommend that you put on every college list are Safety Schools, Fit Schools, and Reach Schools. If you’re applying to really competitive schools, we recommend applying from anywhere between 10-20 schools. If you’re more of an average student and you just want to go to your local college or university, you can apply to fewer schools (3-5 schools).

Safety Schools

– Schools that you have a really good shot at getting into.

– If your grades and scores are at a 75th percentile on both the GPA and test scores AND that the school has at least a 30% admission rate.

– We’re going to assume, as we break down these metrics, that all other factors are at about the same level as your GPA and test scores (activities, essays, personal circumstances, demographic background, etc.)

– It’s totally cool to also include community colleges in your safety schools. Transferring is a real option and a good Plan B if you don’t get into the school you want to go to.

– If you’re looking at community colleges, you can also look into ones that have programs that you’re interested in and have automatic/guaranteed transfer pathways.

– You also won’t have to tell anyone that you went to a community college, all that matters is where you graduated from.

– We recommend you apply to at least one school with either early admissions decisions or rolling admissions, where students can apply any time before a certain deadline and receive decision letters faster.

Fit Schools

– Schools where you’re right down the middle when it comes to your scores and grades.

– If your GPA and Scores are right around the 50th percentile.

– Anything with less than a 20% admissions rate is always a reach because there’s just not enough room at that school even if you fit every parameter.

– The more competitive the schools the more you might need to apply to to get in somewhere.

Reach (Dream) Schools

– Schools where one or two factors is happening

– The school itself is super competitive (less than a 20% admissions rate overall).

– You and your scores are at the 25th percentile or below for that school.

– If you’re below that 25th percentile, unless you have an amazing or incredible life story, your chances are very low.

– That does not mean that you shouldn’t apply to dream schools even if you know your chances are minimal but we recommend applying to one or two of these schools.

– We never recommend applying to any schools you don’t have the time to actually put into the application.

Populate your list

– You might want to start with a big list of about 50-100 schools and then begin to investigate and crop some into lists of schools that you are interested in and schools you’re not as interested in.

– You can start with rankings lists if you want (Forbes, US News & World Report, etc.) or even fun lists (Best Return on Investments, Highest Earning Graduates, Particular Departments).

– Take into consideration affordable colleges and note some that offer the most merit scholarships, especially if you’re a competitive student.

– Ask around your immediate network (friends, family, etc.)  to see how others experiences may help you in your decision.

– You may also want to buy guides to give you information on certain schools to help you populate your list. Examples of these types of books are below:

Additional college guide books:
Fiske Guide to Colleges 2020 –
The Complete Book of Colleges, 2020 Edition: The Mega-Guide to 1,359 Colleges and Universities (College Admissions Guides) –
The Best 385 Colleges, 2020 Edition: In-Depth Profiles & Ranking Lists to Help Find the Right College For You (College Admissions Guides) –
Best Colleges 2019: Find the Best Colleges for You! –

Don’t feel like your life is over if you don’t get into your dream school as there are so many awesome experiences for you to have.