Developing Your Criteria

One of the most challenging and most meaningful aspects of the college search and application process is the self-exploration you will carry out as you begin to identify your priorities and allow those priorities to define the types of schools you research and ultimately apply to. Over time, you’ll develop a sense of what things matter most to you. Some categories that students consider are:

  • Location (region of the country or the world, general preference for urban/suburban/rural, preferred climates, proximity to home or family, proximity to area resources such as outdoor activities/internships in a certain field)
  • Campus feel (style of architecture, presence of green space, character of surrounding community)
  • School size (average class size, relationships with professors, opportunities for research, breadth of academic programs offered)
  • Access to specific academic programs (majors, minors, learning support, ability to participate in classes or programs if not majoring in them)
  • Structure of academic program (flexibility or structure of core requirements, applying directly to a major vs. deciding later)
  • Cost to attend (public, private, availability of need-based and merit-based aid)
  • Opportunity to participate in specific extracurriculars (varsity/intramural/club sports, the arts, clubs)
  • School culture (diversity of student body and faculty, religious affiliation, political climate, sports culture, Greek life, presence of specific affinity groups, popular sports/clubs/student traditions, level of academic intensity/competitiveness, etc.)

The criteria you develop will be informed by gut responses to some of these options and by your experience visiting a diverse group of schools and noticing what appeals to you and what doesn’t. As your criteria evolve and become more and more defined with time, your College Counseling team will be able to recommend a more tailored list of schools for your consideration.