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Comparing Colleges

How to Choose a College


Students primarily choose colleges based on their major of choice and whether or not they fit the admission criteria. Other factors include level of prestige, cost, location, size, and extracurricular activities.


It is important for students to set realistic goals for themselves and apply to schools that are within their reach and a little above their reach. Students should sort and classify the schools they apply to in order to ensure they are setting realistic, possible college goals. Read the criteria below to determine if you are choosing colleges that within a reasonable set of expectations.


Match - A match school is one where your academic credentials (GPA, SAT or ACT scores, and extracurricular involvement) fall well within (or even exceed) the school's range for the average freshman. There are no guarantees, but it is not unreasonable to be accepted to several of your match schools.

Dream-  A dream school is one where your academic credentials are below the school's range for the average freshman or a school that is incredibly competitive (private universities, Ivy Leagues). Dream schools are long-shots, but they should still be possible (and not a dream).

Safety - A safety school is one where your academic credentials are above the school's range for the average freshman. You should be reasonably certain that you will be admitted to your safety schools. Like the rest of your list, these should also be colleges you would be happy to attend. In addition to an admissions safety school, it is a good idea to include a financial safety school on your list, one that you and your family can afford even if you received no aid at all.

I highly recommend that all students apply to 2 Safety, 3-4 Match, and 1-2 Dream universities.

College Research Tools

The number one recommendation is for students and parents to research options and ask questions early. Naviance is an excellent resource when it comes to choosing a college. If students are undecided about their majors, they can re-visit the results of their Strengths Explorer tests and read about their personality. Students can also read about careers and add them to their career list while considering possible college majors. One of the best research features in Naviance is the Super Match College Search. Students can use this feature to search for colleges based on interest, size, location, cost and test scores. Students can view admission information in order to determine if the college is a realistic option.

To access the SuperMatch search tool in Naviance, click on Colleges
à Find Your Fit à SuperMatch College Search. 

All About SuperMatch Video:
See the College Comparison Chart PDF for an excellent resource to make notes while exploring potential universities.