top of page


  • Writer's pictureShelby Stewart

Crafting a Perfect College List

As a rising high school senior, finalizing your college list is a critical step that is often harder than it sounds. At Orbit College Counseling, we want to make sure you’re excited about each option on your college list while still keeping it at a manageable size. Below are a few tips to help you create a college list that will lead to plenty of choices next year! 

Reflect on Your Goals and Criteria

Start by going back to the beginning of this process, when you went through college fit exercises. Which of the colleges on your list offer what you’re looking for when it comes to size, location, academic programs, resources, or whatever else is your personal priority?  

Understanding your current preferences will help you see if you have any colleges on your list that don’t align with your preferences. If there are, remove those before moving forward. 

Categorize Your Choices

Organize your current college list into three admission categories:

  • Likely Schools: Colleges where your academic credentials (GPA, rigor, and/or SAT/ACT scores) are above the average admitted student’s and the college has a higher acceptance rate. 

  • Possible Schools: Colleges where your academic credentials are in line with the average admitted student’s and their acceptance rate is slightly lower than your likely schools.

  • Reach Schools: Colleges where your academic credentials are below the average admitted student’s or the school has an acceptance rate less than 20%. 

A balanced list typically includes 2-3 schools from each category, ensuring you have solid options no matter what. 

Once you have your list categorized, see if it’s balanced. If, for example, you have 5 reach schools, that’s the category you want to focus on slimming down. 

Evaluate Financial Considerations

To ensure you actually have solid options next year, you’re going to want to make sure your list is balanced academically and financially. Review the colleges on your list and make sure that they align with your financial needs. Is there at least one in-state safety school? 

Are there any colleges that don’t offer any merit aid or only offer scholarships to a small number of students? If so, could you and your family still afford it without merit aid? If not, that’s likely a college you want to remove from your list. 

Trust Your Instincts

After all the research and advice, your intuition plays a crucial role. Make sure you do the work but also trust the process. 

Seek Advice

Not sure if your list is financially balanced? Don’t have a list even started? Orbit College Counseling is here to help! Schedule your complimentary consultation today. 


Recent Posts

See All

Setting the Stage for LOR Success

Hey high school juniors! It’s time to discuss a crucial aspect of the college application process: letters of recommendation (LORs) from your teachers. These letters provide colleges with valuable ins

The Power of Demonstrated Interest

In the competitive landscape of college admissions, demonstrating interest in prospective institutions can impact your chances of acceptance. While academic rigor & grades remain the biggest factors,


bottom of page