For high school seniors and transfer students alike, choosing a college or university can be a very daunting task. With so many options, it can seem impossible to begin narrowing down which college might be best for you. Listed here are six steps to take to begin determining what school you should attend.


  • Make a list of your top three to five most important factors.


Examples may be things like geographic location, average class size, availability of a specific program or major, or the presence or absence of extracurricular activities like Greek life or intramural sports.



  • Determine if you plan to pursue a general undergraduate degree (like an Associate’s or Bachelor’s) or if you’re interested in enrolling in a technical program.


If you don’t feel ready for traditional college just yet or have interest in a career field that requires a technical certificate, explore your options. Local community colleges often offer a variety of certification programs for careers ranging from an aesthetician to jobs in the welding or mechanical industries.



  • If your goal is to work on obtaining an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, utilize a college search engine like College Board’s Big Future ( to begin creating a list of schools that fit your criteria.


Take the list you created above in Step 1 and factor it into the parameters of College Board’s search. This will help you begin to create a master list of schools that may be of interest to you.



  • Get as much information as you can on various schools that stand out to you.


While requesting the promotional material from a college’s admissions office is a step in the right direction, you can also conduct research of your own by browsing through the school’s website, online newspaper, or even the comments of current and past students about the college on websites like Rate My Professor ( which can give some insight onto different opinions on each school you’ve added to your list. Just remember that online feedback often skews in the direction of complaint, so use what you find there as a starting point to further research.



  • Keep a list of thoughts on each school you research, including potential pros and cons.


Perhaps this school has an amazing newspaper that you could see yourself contributing to, but is not easily accessible (via car, train, or flight) from your home city – making holiday travel a challenge. The schools will begin to blur together and you may forget details as you go on your search. Keeping a list will be a helpful reminder as you begin to narrow down which colleges you are most interested in.



  • Remember that, ultimately, you have power over creating your ‘college experience.’


While there are certainly schools that may be more suited to your preferences than others, understand that there is no way of determining the ONE right choice when it comes to attending a college. Go into the experience being willing to step out of your comfort zone and create a community wherever you may be, and you will find the right school wherever you choose to attend.

Contributed by Miranda Houchens, Education Coach at Northwest College Support