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Prepared To Build Your College List?

Some students prepare a list by sophomore year, while others wait until they get test scores and a final GPA in June of junior year. The right time is after smart research.

Academic fit? Evaluate your academic record, starting with rigor before moving on to GPA and test scores if applicable. Two or three reaches are ok, but too many “unlikelies” may not be.

Competitive major? Expect certain majors to be tougher admits at some colleges.

Tempted by prestige and reputation? This one has three parts (at least):

  1. Do you have a list of schools chosen for their reputation, but no idea what you would study there? Do they even offer your major? That's fine if you’re truly undecided, but it’s best to explore the academic offerings and college’s strength’s first.

  2. Are you a serious student with high rigor/grades/test scores/extras? Instead of building a list from the USNWR, research colleges that fit your needs…and may award you merit aid. Successful? That’s who you are, and the college you attend won’t diminish it.

  3. Athletes hoping for recruitment? Keep your fingers crossed…but don’t count on it. Think practically and consider colleges that fit your academic profile and location/size/cultural preferences as well as playing for the Penn soccer team.

Pre-professional college goals? Clarify if the programs you plan to apply to are direct admit only or if you can transfer into them once in college.

Not serious academically, at least not yet? While you enjoy the fun of college (that’s the easy part), there are plenty of colleges that will help support you educationally.

Is affordability a consideration? Only add schools that fit your budget after you complete the NPC (net price calculator) on the college website. Won’t qualify for need-based aid? Let’s look for merit aid opportunities and explore colleges you didn’t know about.

Assess yourself honestly. Research and understand majors, or careers if appropriate, that appeal to you. Being undecided is appropriate, but think about the high school classes and extracurricular experiences you enjoy and take direction. Colleges are academic institutions, and admissions officers think of applicants as purposeful young adults who will use their resources and enhance their communities.

Build your list after soul-searching and research, then contact me for the nuances about particular colleges at


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