College Counseling & Planning      Orleans, MA. (774) 801-2449      Ashland, OR. (541) 488-0919
I would highly recommend Jan to any family who is facing the challenging and often emotionally charged college search process....more
--Nora Knox, mother of Madison, University of Oregon, Clark Honors College, 2015

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HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR FINAL LIST OF COLLEGES?By now you have researched colleges and the time has come to refine your list. This is a must since you have to be somewhat practical about the number of colleges to which you are applying. If the cost of applications isn’t a consideration then writing all those essays should be. With the use of the Common Application it is very easy to add one more college to your list. However, that does not guarantee that you will end up with a choice of acceptances. It is important to use the information that you have gathered from guidebooks, counselors, websites, college reps, parents, and anyone else who had two cents to add. Nevertheless the most important consideration at this point is your priorities. You have to go back to your original list of what your expectations are for your college experience. What are the things that are most important to you? Hopefully, by this time you understand that no place is perfect and that you are going to have to make some compromises. You do realize that don’t you? So why is it still so hard to narrow the list and make the final decision of which colleges stay and which ones are deleted?

The following are a few suggestions to help:
… Academics - the school has the major you are considering and other courses that you find interesting. If, and when, you change your mind there is enough academic choice.
… Retention rate - students like the school enough to return their sophomore year and a high percentage of the students graduate in four or five years. This most likely means they are happy.
… Academic challenge - the competitiveness of the school will allow you to handle the workload and keep up with assignments. You won't have to become a hermit in the library.
… Extracurricular activities - the school has the activities and clubs that are of interest to you. Because there is more to college than academics, it is important that you feel comfortable with the social scene.
… Intramural, club or varsity sports - the school has the sport you want to play and, you can participate at the level of competitiveness you want.
… Location - the area of the country, the weather, and the size of the community fit your expectations. Be honest about this - if you don't like hot weather, don't go to Florida, and if you don't like cold weather don't go to Maine. If Portland overwhelms you, don't go to New York City.
… Size - the school provides the learning environment that is best for your learning style. Small schools versus large school or something in between. Now is the time to honestly assess how you learn, your personality style, and your social expectations.
… Honest comparison - remember there is no perfect college so it is important that you determine which college meets most of your priorities.
… Satisfied students and graduates - although everyone will have a particular bias that will often depend on the mood of the week, nevertheless, talking to present students and recent graduates can help you to assess a school.
… Intangibles are appealing - sometimes the choice will be made in part by following your instinct. You like the buildings, the dorms are comfortable, you met a couple of kids you clicked with, the squirrels on the campus mall looked happy. Whatever it takes! Just be honest and try not to fool yourself about your expectations.

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants