Summer College Checklist #2: Build Out Your College List

What kind of shape is your college list in? Are you giving yourself a full range of options?

By the time that senior year gets into full swing, you'll want to start tackling individual colleges' supplemental work — and be certain that you're not doing more (or less!) work than you ultimately have to.

In order to be certain, you'll need to have your college list finalized.

First, though, if you're low on schools, the easiest place to begin exploring new options is to use the "similar schools" or "college overlaps" functions on popular websites to find the hidden gems out there. Cappex, Big Future, Niche — most any of the college search sites have that feature.

Another great resources is CollegeXpress. If you head into your top-choice college's profile and then check out the Lists and Rankings feature on the left-hand side, you'll find a treasure trove of lists that suggest schools that share even the quirkiest criteria — everything from "Seeing Stars: Great Places to Learn about Astronomy" to "Colleges with Notable Radio Stations"!

Example: If you look up Oberlin on Cappex.com, perhaps, from the "Similar Schools" bar, you can jump next to one you might never have heard of (Denison? Grinnell?).

If you're at the point of streamlining and making sure that your list is balanced, we encourage you aim to submit a minimum of six applications:

  • two to colleges you consider "likely" to accept you (where the odds are around 75% or better);
  • two to "target" colleges (occupying the middle part of the range, where your odds are 50/50, give or take);
  • and two to colleges you'd consider to be "reaches" (meaning that you have about a 25% chance or under of getting in).

One great resource for determining your chances is by creating a free account on Parchment. If your high school has Naviance Family Connection, you can also refer to the scattergrams to see how past students have fared when applying to your top schools, sorting them according to GPA and test scores.

On the other end of the range, don't go too crazy with the total number of applications you plan to submit. If you take on too much work, the quality of those applications will suffer!

Our suggestion is not to go above ten unique applications. More than that can cause major burnout on top of all your senior year obligations — something to avoid at all costs during fall semester!


We hope this is a useful primer to the Summer College Checklist! We're here to help your student feel motivated and supported as they gear up for college application season and senior year.

If you're looking for personal support with college applications, check out our summer intensive workshop, Carve Your Own Path.

For more details, visit the program page and don't hesitate to reach out to us with questions! Sign up by June 30th, 2018, to get $200 off. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, come back to the blog next week to learn about the most important questions to ask colleges, and how they can set your applications apart!

Teen LAUNCH