Building a College List


Did you know? Applying to college means applying to colleges, plural.

In fact, we recommend you apply to 6-10 schools, so your list needs at least that many schools, in order to give yourself the best opportunity to make smart college choices. 

Big or small, two-year or four-year, country or city, no matter what types of colleges you put on your list, make sure it’s made up of a combination of schools that, based on your academic profile (GPA and test scores), you’re likely to get into and others that are more of a stretch.

We recommend you create your College List this way:

  1. Include 2 “foundation” schools

Foundation schools have an acceptance rate of 60 percent or higher, and because your academic profile is higher than that of their average first-year student, you’ll likely get in to these schools. Two-year community colleges fall into this category for all students, since most offer open enrollment (meaning they accept all applicants with a high school diploma or GED certificate). For some students, starting at these schools and then transferring to a four-year college is a good option, especially in states that offer tuition-free community college for eligible students.

  1. Include 4-5 “target” schools

Target schools have an acceptance rate of 30-60 percent, and for these schools, your academic profile matches or, possibly, exceeds that of their average first-year student. They are schools you want to attend, and at which you feel optimistic you’ll be accepted.

  1. Include 1-2 “reach” schools

Reach schools have a low acceptance rate, usually less than 30 percent, and they are a stretch for the majority of students. Your academic profile may be lower than that of their average first-year student, but schools aren’t only looking at how you do in class; they’re also interested in how you spend your time outside of class, participating in activities like sports, volunteer efforts, even afterschool employment. So choose one or two schools that fall outside your target range – and go for it!

We encourage you to check out the college landing pages in MyCoalition, because they contain a lot of good, scannable information that could factor into your list building. And when you build your college list using MyCoalition, you can be assured that all of your choices — from small liberal arts colleges to large research universities — are committed to access, affordability, and success.

Read more: Search for colleges and add to your college list >

Read more: Researching colleges > 

Read more: Deciding where to apply >

Additional Resources

Take advantage of all that we have to offer! With MyCoalition, you can store important high school documents and files in your digital Locker, ask for input from trusted family and friends, and even apply to schools.

Learn how to apply to selective colleges and universities from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Explore the benefits of applying to highly selective schools from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Find your perfect college with College Greenlight.

Find the Best Colleges for your needs.

Find your college fit at BigFuture by the College Board.





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