How To Narrow Your College Choices Fast

Students on Northwestern's campus -- wondering "what's the best college for me?"

Flickr user Erik Fredericks

Creating a shortlist of colleges to apply to and then narrowing down that list takes some time. Ideally, you should start your search for potential colleges while you are in your junior year, if not sooner. May 1st is the deadline for selecting your college, and it’s fast approaching. You might need to narrow your options quickly. “But how do I find the best college for me?” you ask…

If you find yourself scrambling at the last minute, here are a few things you can do to narrow down your list in a few weeks.

Start by Checking the School’s Academic Programs

If you declared your major on your application, you’ve probably already checked out the school’s academic program. Compare the programs to one another. Is one of the colleges on your list known for that major in particular? Do they have any professors with some clout in the industry? How do the job placements rates look for that academic department? They’re all questions worth investigating. Some colleges might be stronger than others, and that can help narrow your list.

Know Your Family’s Budget

Even with scholarships, grants and student loans, some schools may just be way out of your family’s budget. Discuss money with your parents, set a budget, and eliminate all colleges that cost upward of your set budget. This will also help save you from being buried in debt after you graduate.

Colleges give out financial aid in the form of scholarships. You’ll want to compare the award letters you’ve received. Want to estimate what a college might award you? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool!

Consider the Location of the Campus & Other Features

Now that you’ve narrowed down the colleges to those that that offer your major and are affordable, you can now narrow it down further based on whether it is located in a rural or urban location. Do you want something close to or far from home? Do you prefer a smaller setting or a large, bustling city? This will give you a significantly smaller list to work with so it should not take you much time to check out the other features of each school to narrow the list down some more.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around US—for FREE!