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How to Choose Which Colleges to Apply to

4 min readβ€’november 23, 2021


College Process 🏫

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How to Choose Which Colleges to Apply to πŸŽ“

Starting on the college search can be difficult. You want a college that is your perfect pick, but how do you find that perfect fit? With almost 4,000 colleges and universities scattered across the United States πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ and even more to consider internationally πŸ—ΊοΈ, it can be challenging to figure out which to consider applying to.Β 
You may have a few ideas of colleges you are interested in or have heard good things about, but how are you supposed to know if you should be applying for them? πŸ€”
⚠️ Word of Caution: This advice is not one size fits all! Take the advice that feels most applicable to you!

πŸ“ Know How Many Colleges to Apply to πŸ“

The different universities and colleges you apply to should fall into three separate categories: safety, target, and reach schools. There is no exact magic number 🎱 that you should apply to, but it is typically recommended to send an application to 4 to 8 schools. Don't let this small range discourage you from applying to more; there's no one-size-fits-all in the world of college.
Your safety schools should be those that you feel confident in your ability to get into 😎. These are typically schools with factors such as higher acceptance rates and average test scores that are below yours. You should apply to at least one or two of these as backup schools, just in case the acceptance process doesn't go as planned.
Target schools 🎯 are those in which your test scores, grades, and experiences line up with directly what the college is looking for in an applicant. You want to apply to some schools where it may be less challenging to be accepted. 
You should also look into reach schools, which are dream schools that can seem out of reach πŸ€“. Maybe your test scores and grades fall on the lower end of these colleges' medians, or perhaps these schools are known for having selective acceptance rates. Regardless, it's best to be realistic when applying to college, so be sure to apply to schools falling into all three categories.

🌎 Location is Key 🌎

There are plenty of schools that fit into each of the previously mentioned categories, so how do you know which ones are the right ones for you to apply to? Location πŸ“ is one of the most crucial factors to consider right off the bat, as it can cut down the number of schools you should apply to by a large margin.
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Think first about how far away from home 🏠 you are comfortable being. While some people prefer to choose a school where they are close enough to visit their family frequently, others are more inclined to move to another state or even another country for their education. 
Besides distance, you want to choose a school that fits your preferences for surrounding areas. If you are more of a city person πŸŒ† , you may not want to consider any schools in rural localities and vice versa.Β 
By asking yourself these two questions, you can substantially shorten the list of colleges you’re looking into. Whatever you choose, make sure you are doing whatever is the best fit for you.

πŸ“š Consider Your Field of Study β€‹β€‹πŸ“š

Make sure you keep in mind the main reason you are going to college in the first place: to receive an education. Even if you are not entirely sure what you want to study, ensure that the colleges you consider have the programs that interest you πŸŽ’.Β 
If you know what you want to study, you should check out a potential school's programs to see how they rank compared to other institutions'. While national rankings ⭐ can influence your decision, they're not everything. You want a school that can fit your individual needs while also providing a good education in whatever field of study you choose to pursue.

🏫 Make sure to visit before applying 🏫

On paper πŸ“, a college may seem like it is the perfect fit for you, but in person, it can have a completely different vibe than you expected. If possible, you want to visit your potential colleges before applying to know for sure that you want to put your energy ✨ into their application.
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Whether you opt-in for a campus tour, want to explore πŸ”Ž independently, or choose to apply to fly-in programs, walking around campus can give you a genuine feel for the school, rather than one marketed towards you. I recommend visiting while classes are in session, so you can see what it will be like when you’re taking classes there.Β 
If going in person isn’t an option for you, many colleges now offer virtual πŸ’» tours, which can let you explore the campus on your own.Β 
These are just a few of the factors you may want to consider when looking for colleges to apply to. Be sure to do your research before making any final decisions, and good luck with your applications! 🌟
If you’re searching for a resource to help you inform your career decisions, check out Forage, the go-to platform for career discovery, learning, and recruiting, straight from employers.
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Photo courtesy of the Freshman Survival Guide
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Author: Erica Burns, Forage Content Writing Intern
  • Erica Burns is a senior at Temple University studying English and political science and is currently a Content Writer Intern with the Forage. She is passionate about writing, literature, and politics, specifically environmental and human rights.

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