Shannon Brady, M.Ed
Founder of TheCollegeMIND • Director of Academic & College Counseling, Brady College Counseling

How To Create A Well-Balanced College List

With decisions coming in this month, it is a strong reminder of how important it is to create a college list that matches your academic and extracurricular profile while checking all your “wants” in a college experience. Each year the college admissions process seems to get more competitive and complicated.  Lately, with many colleges going test-optional, the increase in applications has soared.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean colleges can increase their enrollment.  Colleges are interested in keeping their yield high.  What does yield mean? A college’s yield rate is the percentage of people who accepted their offers of acceptance. In other words, the percentage of people who chose to enroll in that particular school after having been accepted there. It is more likely to offer admission to people who it thinks are likely to accept, because a college wants to keep its yield rate high. If a school thinks you’re more likely to go somewhere else, it may be less inclined to accept you, in an attempt to keep its yield rate high.
Let’s get to that college list building…

A college list begins with research.  Diving deep into the colleges that you are interested in is critical to find out if they will truly fulfill your individual needs.  Even looking into those lesser-known colleges is important to discover if they could meet your personal, academic, and financial needs.  Start with just a few areas: academic programs/majors, professors, student life (organization), and one to two other factors that are important to you.  Follow these colleges on social media to stay up to date with news, events, and admissions info.

Fit is another consideration.  It is ideal to consider more than name brand and “reputation” when refining your college choices.  Colleges on your balanced list should be good academic, social, and financial fits. Happy and successful students choose colleges that will meet their needs both in and out of the classroom.  In addition to these factors in list building, the mega factor is getting to visit campus

There are three categories of a well-balanced list: Reach, Match & Good Bet.

  • “Good Bet” schools = student’s academic profile is significantly stronger than the middle 50 percent of students who are typically admitted.
  • “Match” schools = student’s academic profile is similar to that middle 50 percent.
  • “Reach” schools = student’s academic profile is not as strong as the middle 50 percent.


*This information can be found on the college’s admissions website, or a website has helpful statistics.
*Plan to create a list with at least 2-4 in each category.

While challenging yourself and having goals is important, loading up your list with single digits admissions rates can leave you with little to no options. Keeping realistic expectations on your “reach” schools is a must.  And remember that “good bet” schools aren’t fallbacks but options you are excited about attending.

In Module 3 of TheCollegeMIND course, we will help you figure out your college preferences, show you how to conduct a college search, and create that well balanced college for a successful application season!

The CollegeMIND is a filled-to-the-brim guide that contains everything you need to nail your college admissions. Whether you’re a senior on the verge of panic or a sophomore trying to get ahead, this program will replace your stress with confidence and get you into a college that aligns with you and sets you up for a bright, successful future.

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