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How should I narrow down my college options

I would not mind going to the other side of the country, or just a few hours away. I am more focused on getting a good education and going to a place where I would enjoy living. #education #college

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Jim’s Answer

Hi Brody,

Here are a couple thoughts that may help. If you don't have a strong desire to go to a school far away, perhaps pick a location range from your home to start. For example, choose a school that may be no closer than an hour, but no further than x hours. It's easier to start with a location range and look from there since you will automatically narrow your choices by doing so.

Another way to narrow choices is to focus on a particular major and start with schools that have a good reputation for that major. There are plenty of websites that can help. This is especially helpful if you are considering a major that isn't offered everywhere. My daughter wished to major in fashion merchandising so we started by focusing on schools with top rated programs and then narrowed it by distance from home. We got to 10 schools pretty quickly. She then narrowed it to 5 and we went from there. She is a junior now and doing well - very happy with her choice.

If finances are an issue, you may wish to stay in state and look at public (state funded) schools.

I hope this helps,


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Brenda’s Answer


The college search process can definitely be overwhelming, and often times it is hard to determine where to start. One of the recommendations I make to students is to create a list of priorities and order them accordingly to what is most important to least important in a college for you (e.g. tuition, distance from home, size, location, private vs public etc.). This will help with your initial search as you determine which schools align with your priority list. Additionally, if you have a specific program in mind, that will also help, seeing that it might not be offered at every school. For example, if you are considering a major in the social sciences then a liberal arts school could be a good fit.

My other recommendation would be to take advantage of the virtual opportunities many colleges have now started to offer as a result of COVID-19. This offers a great opportunity for you to be able to learn more about the colleges on your list, without having to go on a formal campus tour. During these virtual information sessions, you should come prepared with a list of questions that will help narrow down your choices (e.g. What are the tuition costs/fees? What scholarships do they offer, if any? What are their placement rates? What kind of career services do they offer? etc.).

I hope this provides some helpful insight as you continue with your college search! Best of luck to you.


Brenda recommends the following next steps:

Create a priority list
Order your priorities from most to least important
Register for virtual information sessions
Devote a notebook or create an Excel worksheet to note down information during your research of schools

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Tanjeel’s Answer

Hello Brody (and anyone reading)

As Jim has mentioned, location and desired Major is very important for determining what kind of college you may prefer to attend.

LOCATION: It is generally better to go towards state schools relatively close to you, as typically the tuition will be cheaper and you will be likely to save money on expenses if you decide to live with family (that is what I did, but I know it is not for everyone). Even if finances aren't a restriction for you, it is important to consider other factors like job availability if you plan on working at some point in your college career. In my personal experience, cities tend to be better for this. A good option may be local private colleges, they have the capabilities to provide a higher quality education, while not having to absolutely break the banking in out of state tuition costs (just make sure to do your research)

MAJOR: As a younger individual, it is good (not required, but good) to have a general idea of what kind of career you wish to pursue. That is one of the best things you can do to narrow down your college choices, as you wish to go to a school that has a good program for your major. One caveat I would like to mention is that it is good to go to esteemed schools, but make sure that you can financially handle it. For Example:

NYU Stern is generally considered an amazing school for business, one of the best in New York State. However, tuition is very expensive (50,000 base for one year) so it is hard for the average student to be able to afford it in full, even with parental support. It's not uncommon for people to go to state schools with a slightly less prestigious, but still reputable, program and pay less than half the tuition.

At this point in time, it is good to have a plan of what you wish to achieve after college, as well as a timeline for things. Its good to be aware of all the factors of going to college; moving in, curriculum, college life, work opportunities, personal finances, etc. Starting with that will help you immensely when it comes time to apply or commit to a college. If you're not sure what major to go for, leverage your resources around you (Guidance/career counselors).

If you want to pay less in tuition and wish to not be far from home, look for reputable state schools that specialize in your major, just make sure that there are good opportunities for relevant work in your area (if you're a finance major, look for finance related jobs) so you can build your experience to supplement a good education (nowadays, experience is almost as important as a good education). If you don't mind paying more in tuition and have the stats to back it up, look towards applying to the best of the best schools, just be prepared to put in the effort to succeed amongst the best of the best people, as getting the acceptance isn't the end of it.