Five Pointers for Selecting the Best College

Five Pointers for Selecting the Best College


University students use the campus pathway to stroll and ride bicycles.

The interesting aspect of the college process is seeing colleges to determine which ones to apply to. It's often the first opportunity for students to interact with college students and experience day-to-day living at a four-year institution.

Although visiting a campus in person is ideal, we are aware that these trips can be costly and time-consuming. Fortunately, there are now online resources available for students to use to take virtual college tours, which can increase the number of schools you and your family can consider (You Visit and Campus Tours, for example). Even programs that reimburse the price of college visits are provided by some colleges (see the section about fly-in programs below). 

We advise you to follow these suggestions if you and your family are at the exciting stage of creating a list of universities to apply to in order to create a balanced and unique experience.

begin with local schools

Starting your search at in-state colleges and universities is a wise move. One reason is that they are more accessible than out-of-state institutions, have in-state tuition rates, and frequently allow you to explore multiple institutions in one trip. Keep track of deadlines as you research because state schools may provide honors colleges or merit scholarships with an earlier deadline. 

Make a list of every institution in your state first. Make a second list of the things you want from college experience. Are you thinking of attending a smaller or larger school? Which environment—the urban, suburban, or rural—do you prefer? Which academic opportunities and programs are significant to you? Do you have any particular passions or interests that you'd like to pursue in college, such as hiking, volunteering, or music? It's crucial to choose a school that offers the majors you're interested in, but you should also think about undergraduate research opportunities and honors college programs if you think you might like to take part in those activities later on.

In-state students have a higher admissions success rate than out-of-state applicants. We encourage all college students to submit applications to at least one or two in-state institutions in order to increase their chances of receiving multiple admissions.

Register for fly-in programs.

If you are chosen, many top institutions offer fly-in programs that let you tour the campus for free. Here is a list of fly-in programs along with the deadlines associated with each one. Attending fly-in programs demonstrates your interest in a college and gives you the chance to speak with faculty members and current students about the programs they offer.

Make sure you're posing the appropriate queries.

Students and families are frequently given with an abundance of information when touring or investigating a college campus. Investigating the academic options available as well as the student community and culture may seem obvious, but When choosing a college, there are other long-term considerations to keep in mind. Here are some crucial inquiries to make:

What resources and options are there at the institution for financial aid?

Does the university have a no loans rule?

What programs does the college offer to help first-generation students?

Does the institution offer many options for students to obtain internships? Consider paid internships.

What types of free or inexpensive entertainment are offered on campus?

What kinds of study abroad opportunities does the institution provide?

How many students graduate?

What type of academic assistance is available at the institution for a struggling student? Is this guidance free?

What resources does the college have for mental health?

What percentage of recent graduates are employed?

How the Has your school built up a strong network of reachable alumni?

Ensure that your college list is balanced and that you like every institution on it.

All college applicants should be able to choose from a variety of institutions on the list that they are enthusiastic about, regardless of the acceptance percentages. When a student satisfies the GPA and standardized test score requirements for a specific elite college, they frequently believe they will definitely be accepted. The truth is that the majority of applicants to highly selective colleges match the academic requirements, but because of a low acceptance rate, many deserving individuals will be rejected.

If your test results and grades are strong, It is advised that you submit applications to two to three institutions with acceptance rates of less than 25%, three to four institutions with acceptance rates of between 25% and 60%, and two to three institutions with acceptance rates of more than 60%. Ensure that each of these schools—including some of your "thrive" schools—is a suitable fit for you so that you may prosper there. Visit the Colleges that Change Lives page to discover more about some amazing institutions dedicated to fostering students' success and potential.

If possible, use rolling, priority, and early action.

There are numerous early action, non-binding application deadlines for highly selective schools (see here for descriptions of these words); we advise that you check these out. Due to the advantage they provide in acceptance rates, students take advantage of these chances. Students can frequently seek early action to state institutions even if the school has a single-choice early action deadline, so long as they aren't applying to two binding options.

We advise utilizing BigFuture's net pricing calculator to check whether the school will be affordable for you before making a binding commitment if you apply for a binding early decision chance.

We wish you and your family the best of luck as you select your institution, and keep in mind that looking into universities should be enjoyable and exciting.


The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is committed to helping financially struggling yet incredibly deserving students further their studies. Since 2000, the Foundation has provided approximately 3,200 students from eighth grade through graduate school with nearly $250 million in scholarships, as well as in-depth academic coaching, career route counseling, and other support services. Additionally, the Foundation has granted $125 million to organizations that assist these children

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