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by Jessica Brondo of The Edge | March 10, 2009


Whether you are a senior with the imminent task of finalizing a list of schools to which to apply or an underclassman with what seems like all the time in the world to think about college, deciding where to apply can be a daunting prospect for anyone. With thousands of schools throughout the country, it is often hard to determine where to begin when narrowing down your search.

Know what you're looking for

It is important to remember what you're looking for when creating a college list. The ideal list will have a good combination of safety, target and reach schools. You should be able to see yourself at all the schools you select for your finalized list. Don't just apply to a top school because it's a top school; if you didn't feel comfortable there, then it's not a top school for you. And never underestimate the importance of good safety schools. Safety schools should be schools with which you felt an instant connection, but ones at which you should have no problem gaining acceptance (i.e., your SAT scores, GPA, and activity sheet slightly over-qualify you for the school).

Go visit

It's nearly impossible to sit down with a college guide book and create your college list; the most invaluable aspect of the search process is by far the college visit. Not only does this help you determine the features of a school that are appealing and those that aren't, but it also gives you a true sense of the student body. I guarantee you'll get an immediate sense of the school is right for you once you are walking around.

Start early

Most students wait until the spring of their junior year to start thinking about the college application process, but oftentimes this puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on the student during the busiest semester of her high school career. Start visiting schools as early as your sophomore year. Pick out a couple of local schools (within one to two hours) and take a day trip with your parents just to check it out. While you're there pay attention to key factors like the size of the school, the campus, the student body, the party scene, and the classes. As you go to more schools you'll start to narrow down the aspects that you like and don’t like and it will make the college selection process much easier.

Immerse yourself in the school

Once you've narrowed down the field and start to put together your finalized college list, you’re going to want to really show the school that you're interested and there are so many ways to do this. For one, go visit again, and make sure you fill out a card in the admissions office every time you go. When you're there, sit in on a class, and if you feel comfortable, introduce yourself to the professor after class and send a thank-you e-mail when you go home. If you're really passionate about a certain course of study, research the professors in that department and maybe read one of their books. To get a sense of the social scene at a school, schedule an official overnight visit, or if you have friends at a school, arrange to spend the weekend with them to get a feel for the students.

Relax and enjoy

Most importantly, enjoy this process as it can be a truly rewarding one. Not only will you learn a lot about the universities around the country, but you will also learn a lot about yourself in the process of deciding where you can see yourself for four years after high school.

For more information on the college admissions process and test preparation issues, visit The Edge online at or call us today at (877) 499-EDGE to inquire about our current programs.


Filed Under: Education|Grad School