How to Find the Right College for You

There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, and no single college provides the best education for all students. So how do students and parents find the best colleges for their student’s needs?

Independent college counselors who recommend colleges first do a deep dive into each student’s academic and career goals, high school achievement, learning styles, social needs, and financial requirements. Every student is different, and each custom-created college list will address the student’s individual educational, social and financial needs.

Counselors use their personal knowledge of colleges, past client/student experiences, and specific research tools of their industry. Counselors don’t consider US News and World Report or other artificially created lists to determine college fit.
Once students’ needs and desires are assessed, counselors and parents use many tools to help them create an initial college list. My favorite online tools, in this order are: 

Guided Path, my proprietary counseling software, which allows me to assess students, research colleges and form lists; 

Big Future and College Data, which allow students to narrow the list by selectivity, fields of study, geography, and more; and 

College Navigator, which I like because it displays each college’s typical financial aid offer for families in various income categories, and 4-year graduation rates.

An initial list should include at least 15 suitable colleges and universities of varying degrees of selectivity that offer the student’s field of study, social needs, and are affordable based on the family’s financial circumstances. 

Families research colleges on the initial list using the sites noted above, the campus website, YouTube, virtual campus visits, in-person campus visits, and and College Confidential, which offer student reviews of each campus.

In the end, all colleges that land on the student’s final college list should be places the students would be happy to go if admitted. Remove any schools from the list that elicits a “meh” response from students.