The College List: Determining What Matters and What Doesn’t

One of the top concerns expressed by our students and their families is, how to create a good college list. We have talked about this before in this previous blog, but today’s blog helps students and parents identify the qualities that are most important for creating their college list.

It feels like once a year I have to say to a student, “I’m sorry, I’d love to find you a school with an equestrian program in New York City, but it just doesn’t exist.” That’s a metaphor (although it did happen once and has been my go-to joke ever since). But, I frequently have to have conversations with students about which is more important (using the same analogy) the equestrian program, or New York City?


It can be very challenging for students, who have never been to college, to know the differences between schools and what qualities would be best for them. Another important differentiation is that what they want may not be what is best (try explaining that to a teenager… yet another reason to hire a college counselor!).


One thing I do with students who have a very precise “wish list” is to ask them to rank the list; which of these is most important, and why. Having a discussion about what how each characteristic affects the college experience is key. For example, attending college in a city may seem cool to a student who has never even been in a city, so explaining what that means exactly is an essential conversation to have.


Another thing I do with students is to ask them where they are willing to “budge a little.” Is there one area where they are willing to make some concessions so we can make the list better?


Finally, and perhaps the most helpful way for students to determine what is really important and what is not is to visit schools. It can be eye-opening to tour a school and see what it’s like firsthand. Tours very often change the direction a student was heading originally. They may have thought they wanted a small school, but once they visit, they may realize it’s not what they want. Determining what they don’t want is often just as important as what they do.


Helping students identify the characteristics of colleges that truly matter, and those that will ultimately help them be successful in college can be challenging. Having a meaningful and realistic conversation, as well as visiting colleges and seeing them first hand can be a big help. At Campus Bound, we specialize in helping students create the best list for them! Contact us today to learn how we can help.



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