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The Savvy Applicant Blog

Answering the Question: Where Should I Apply to College?

"Where should I apply to college?" This seemingly existential question plagues the minds of many students who are uncertain about what they want to do with their lives. We are here to tell you it is okay to be doubtful. Determining where you should apply doesn't have to be an existential crisis.


At Princeton College Consulting, we understand the anxiety and frustrations. We know the feeling of being lost, which is why we have developed these college counseling resources to help. Throughout this piece, we provide factors for consideration, a methodology for identifying and aligning your personal, academic, and environmental interests, and a framework for narrowing down where you should apply.


Factors for consideration

Where should i apply Yale university

College considerations are plentiful. Each college provides a unique experience tailored to certain types of individuals. The first step to identifying which colleges to apply to is to uncover your interests and preferences. Start by writing out your answers to these questions:


Personality Questions

  • What are your strengths & weaknesses?

  • Are you more introverted or extroverted?

  • Would you prefer to live in a big city or a more natural setting?

  • How far away from home do you want to be?

  • What are your most important values? (list anywhere between 5-10)

  • How do you handle pressure and stress?


Academic & Interest Questions

  • What are your interests? (If you're unsure, what is your favorite class?)

  • What would you like to do?

  • What classes are you currently performing best? Which classes are you performing worst?

  • Are you currently taking any AP classes?

  • What is your GPA?

  • Which extracurricular activities do you enjoy?


Cost constraint questions

  • What cost restraints are you facing?

  • Do you require a scholarship?


Creating a College List

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By answering the above questions, you have built a strong foundation for developing your college list. A college list consists of schools that align with your personality, interests, and constraints. It doesn't have to be exhaustive. However, it will contain a significant number of colleges more than your final list, because it empowers you to find your ideal fits. The second step, as you may have guessed, is to develop your list of colleges. Here's how:


Find schools that excite you. Use your answers from the consideration questions. Either plug these into college search engines and college matching services or manually search for the information on college websites. In the interest of time, we recommend the former first.


Here's a list of questions for determining your college list:

  • Do they have programs that align with your interests? (major-specific, study-abroad, etc.)

  • Is the school size a good fit for your personality type?

  • Which aligns better: a private or public school?

  • Does the location align with your preferences?

  • Does it have an academic climate that aligns with your ability, one that challenges, but doesn't overwhelm you?

  • Do the facilities attract you?

  • Are there extracurricular programs for you? (athletics, clubs, etc.)

  • Does the school fall within your cost constraints? If not, are there financial opportunities such as scholarships or work-studies?


Narrow down and categorize your list

The third and final step for deciding where you should apply to college is to narrow down your college list and categorize them by the likelihood of acceptance.

Calculate your chances now

These categories are as follows: reach schools, dream colleges with a lower probability of acceptance; match schools, competitive colleges for which you have a solid chance of admission; and safety schools, fallback colleges for the unlikely event your match schools don't admit you. You should have between 2-3 colleges for each category, applying to no more than 10.



Congratulations! By determining your college application list, you have made a real, impactful decision. Moving forward, you still have a lot of work cut out for you.  Maximize your admissions chances by having a one-on-one meeting with one of our college admissions experts.

Schedule a Free Consultation