There are over 4,000 colleges in the United States, which means you have many opportunities to find the university that’s right for you!  Here are some tips on staying on top of your search as you learn more about schools and decide where to apply.  

1. Build a balanced list of colleges to apply to

We recommend applying to 8–10 schools that cover a variety of admission likelihoods. Balance your college list with reach, target, and safety schools—choosing three or so in each category. By limiting the number of applications, you can stay on top of deadlines and communications.  

You should also reflect on what the most important college experiences are for you and use those to guide your college search. We call those experiences “drivers.” They can help you narrow down which school will be best for you based on things like location, academic programs, student body, and campus resources. For exercises to help you identify your drivers, sign up for our Application Workshop: Breaking Down the College Search.  

2. Have a way to track schools you’re interested in and their requirements  

Create a spreadsheet or document where you can record information about the schools you’re interested in. List the colleges and include things like location, campus size, application deadlines, academic programs that catch your eye, student life, if they track demonstrated interest, etc. If you visit a campus or attend a virtual event, take notes and add them to your spreadsheet!  

By having everything in one place, you’ll be able to see the differences and similarities between each school and narrow down your college list. This will also help you prioritize attendance at any upcoming programming and events based on how good of a match a school is. 

3. Stay connected

Signing up for a college’s mailing list is a great way to connect with different schools, but it can overwhelm your inbox if you’re not prepared. Create a folder for each school whose mailing list you sign up for to keep your emails organized. This makes it easier to go back and read through them. 

You might also consider creating a new email address to sign up for mailing lists, campus visits, and eventually use this to apply to colleges.  

When signing up for a mailing list, indicate your academic and social interests, if possible, to receive the most relevant information to you. You should also unsubscribe from any colleges you’re no longer interested in as you get deeper into your search.  

Make sure you read the emails you receive frequently and thoroughly. Colleges often host events like Senior Visit Days, where they might cover the costs for you and a guest to visit campus. These types of events fill up quickly, and checking your email will help prevent you from missing these opportunities.

Connecting with a school can also take the form of reaching out to your admissions counselor there. These are representatives who are familiar with your high school region and happy to answer any questions about the university or application process. Make sure to use their expertise when questions do arise. 

There are many resources online to help facilitate the college search process. For more tips, check out our College Planning Guide.