Constructing a College List

Components Of A College List

Archimedean Upper Conservatory aims to help each and every student pass successfully onto the college or university that best suits her or his personality, aspirations, and interests. As such, we urge students to take an active role in carefully and excitedly researching the schools they will be applying to and attending after high school. Students are encouraged to consider a broad range of post-secondary institutions in the pursuit of those schools that will be most fulfilling to them.

Throughout the junior year of high school, students will be asked to compose their college list, the list of schools they will begin working on applications for, and applying to throughout the summer and beginning of the senior year.

College lists Guidance

College lists are composed of three groups determined by one’s chances of being admitted


Safety Schools are those colleges and universities for which the student has a high chance of being admitted. To be considered a safe school, the students’ test scores, class rank, and high school grades (G.P.A.) should be well above average compared to past accepted freshmen.

High school scores should match those of students in the upper 75-100th percentile range of currently enrolled freshmen.

No students, regardless if they have the highest scores possible, should consider top colleges and universities to ever be safe schools since acceptance rates for these schools are extremely low for everyone. Top colleges and universities include schools like Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Pennsylvania, Yale, Amherst, Carleton, Grinnell, Haverford, Middlebury, Pomona, Reed, Swarthmore, Wellesley, and Williams to name a few. For these schools, the perfect GPA and test score provide still no guarantee of acceptance.

Match schools include those colleges and universities for which the student has a somewhat likely chance of being admitted. To be considered a match school, the students’ academic records of GPA’s, class rank, and standardized test scores should be about average when compared to past accepted freshmen.

High school scores should match those of students in the median 25-75th percentile range of currently enrolled freshmen.

Remember that top colleges and universities, regardless of your academics, should be considered to reach schools and never match schools.

A final group of colleges or universities on your list should include a few reach schools for which the student has a lower, though still plausible, chance of being admitted. To be considered a reach school, the students’ test scores, grades, and class rank match the lower range of students regularly gaining acceptance at the college or university.

High school scores should match those of students in the lower 10-25th percentile ranges of currently enrolled freshmen.

Each category above should be composed of a mixture of public & private institutions

It is true that public universities, especially those in your state of residence, are generally less expensive than private institutions, at least on paper. These figures can be highly deceiving, however, since many private schools, especially those with large endowments, may have much more money to give to those students in need of financial assistance. In fact, it is entirely possible for a student to end up paying considerable LESS for a private school than a state school. Students Should Never Assume A College Or University Will Be Too Expensive To Attend And Therefore Not Apply!

In the end, the ACTUAL cost of attendance, unlike the sticker price, can vary tremendously!!! Students will not know the actual cost of attending any college or university, public or private, until AFTER they have been accepted and the admissions office informs them of the amount and types of financial aid awarded to them.

ALL students should apply to a mixture of schools, both public and private, including some Florida state schools, that fit their interests and passions.

Only once all acceptance letters have been received should the family judge the actual costs of attending each individual institution, given the financial offers received, and decide what works best based on the family’s finances as well as any additional state, federal, and private scholarships the student may have earned by the end of senior year. Final decisions about where to officially enroll need to be made by May 1 of the student’s senior year of high school.

Criteria To Consider When Narrowing Down Your Choices

Need a little help figuring out what you should even be considering when picking the schools that will be most fulfilling to you?

With over 4,000 choices of four-year colleges located in the United States alone, it can feel at first a bit overwhelming to try to select the final 10 or 12 you will apply to. Do not fear, however. In the end, all it takes in order to construct a perfectly personalized college list is for you to take some time to determine the type of environment you would most thrive in and then for you to conduct the necessary research, by visiting the individual college and university websites amongst other pages, to find out which institutions are indeed a good fit for you.

Here are the key questions you should always keep in mind as you research your future potential schools.

Don’t get overwhelmed: Use the following criteria to narrow down choices

Great decisions are made by those students who devote the required time and attention to finding the college or university is the best match for their needs and interests.

Is this school accredited? Is it a respectable institution? How does it rank?

Does the school offer majors you would be interested in? Does it have a good reputation within the field you wish to study? Does it offer numerous opportunities for you to do research or gain practical experience? Does it have many options to explore if you are not sure yet of what you want to do? Do you want to major in more specific programs like fashion design, music production, or culinary arts that need specific types of facilities?

  • Given your academic profile as an applicant, do you think you will be able to gain entrance here?
  • Do an internet search for the particular school’s “COMMON DATA SET” to review the average G.P.A. and test scores of students who gained admittance and to see how the school weighs different parts of your profile.

Remember, private schools especially sometimes choose students holistically and not only based on G.P.A. and S.A.T. scores (though these are VERY important to practically all schools).

Is housing available on campus? Is the campus safe? Will you have access to the kind of food you like to eat? Do they have adequate library or laboratory facilities for what you need and want?

Do you want to be surrounded by nature? Love the hustle and bustle of a big city? Want something peaceful but close to urban centers?

Are you an independent learner who wants to explore various interests or do want more structured classes and academic tracks? Do you have a specific le disability or medical condition that you want support with? Will the school maximize your success in courses given your learning style?


Do you want a school that focuses more on undergraduates and teaching or are you more interested in a school that focuses on research and has graduate students? Are you interested in a liberal arts education or are you interested in art or technology too?

Love the big school setting or do you want a more personal, less intimidating experience? And do not fall pray to thinking that bigger automatically means better.

Want to be in large lecture halls or do you prefer for professors to learn your name?

Want to meet and interact with different cultures or do you want a school where you can interact with individuals with backgrounds similar to yourself?

Want to attend an all-male or female school instead of a coed institution? Care if one gender dominates?

Want to be close to family? What will be the cost of traveling home? Do you want to experience a new part of the country, a different subculture, or enjoy a new type of climate? Is the school located in a region that would allow desirable future internship, research, or work opportunities?


Are you interested in continuing your religious involvement? Want to study religion academically?

Where to search?

Search college catalogs, college fairs, rankings, and college databases.
Of course, NEVER forget to navigate and read through the school website’s about,
admissions, prospective students, and department, major, and/or program links!
before deciding on it.


Do Not pick a school because your best friend and boy- or girlfriend is applying there!!!

Choose the place that You Love just in case something changes.
P.S. They often do…

Will you feel at home in a more conservative or liberal environment? Do you want an institution that stresses volunteerism or is academically highly competitive?


  • It’s true, private schools do have a lot of money and can sometimes offer great financial aid packages to qualified students. But, beware! Just because a school is private does not make it ‘better!’
  • There are both amazingly strong and also weaker public and private schools as you will start to see. So do your research carefully.
  • Try to include a mixture in your college list and always include a few of those Florida state schools. We have some amazing state schools that preferentially accept Florida residents, offer fantastic academics, are highly ranked, and are a great value!


  • Are the professors big-wigs in their fields? Do graduates tend to go on to hold positions of power and influence, or do they mostly just vanish into low-level jobs?
  • The network of contacts is one of the unspoken advantages of going to a good school. Knowing the right people can advance your career. They can help you get a job, get good letters of recommendation, and open doors
    — all through your life, trust me!


What kind of extra- and co-curricular activities are available to you on campus to enrich your college experience? Want to join a fraternity or women’s study group? Want to participate in intramural sports or the school newspaper? Care about travel abroad opportunities? What about opportunities to socialize off-campus?

  • Many of the highly competitive universities now guarantee financial aid to any accepted student who needs it so NEVER write off a school just because you initially see a large price tag!
  • That being said, you should always include a mixture of schools in your college list, including a few that are within your family’s price range just in case financial aid packages, fall short of expectations or you end up not receiving some of those scholarships (and yes, even if a school’s cost seems reasonable, Everyone should research and apply to as many scholarships as possible!).
  • Do not assume either that higher tuition automatically equals a better school!!!


Care about joining or watching a particular sport? Know what Division I, II, or III even means? Just interested in joining an intramural team for fun? Don’t care for sports, but want some nice work out facilities?

Is military service in your future plans? This isn’t necessary to serve, but you may be interested in it if you plan to.

Please, don’t stress about finding “THE PERFECT” college!

Choosing a college is an imprecise science, but one that responds best to those who are
organized, systematic, and honest about their likes, accomplishments, and dreams.
Know that there are SEVERAL colleges that could meet your needs!

Ultimately, identify what makes you unique.

Concentrate on this and you will find the places that match you wonderfully!

Tools For Building A College List

Given the quality of the college preparatory program and the sheer number of options available to our students, the College Office would like to share some favorite tips and tools to help students and families research and narrow down their list of colleges and universities to which they will be applying.

College Match & College Research Search Engines
Need help finding schools that match key criteria you determine as important, such as location, majors offered, student-body size, etc… Try using some of these useful college search and matching tools.

Want to know which colleges match your interests?

College Boards College Matchmaker:

Found a school, but want to learn about potential competitors to help you build your college list?

The Education Trust’s College Results

Want to know how colleges rank nationally?

  • U.S. News Education Rankings

Looking for colleges with a wonderful reputation for their student-centered education?

“College that develops a lifelong love of learning and provides the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life beyond college.”

Florida Public University Freshmen Academic Statistics

Admission to many public universities is becoming more and more competitive. Students should carefully review the following pdf on the acceptance statistics of Florida’s state universities including UF, FSU, UCF, FAU, FAMU, FGCU, FIU, NCF, UNF, USF, USFSP, and UWF.

State University System Of Florida Institutional Matrix As Of August 2010

Here you will find middle range A.C.T. and S.A.T. scores for Fall and Summer acceptance, middle-range high school G.P.A.s, preferred application dates, the three most popular majors, retention rates, graduation rates, the % accepted, yearly tuition costs, sports division information, and more.
Want to find out who the competitors are of schools you may be considering?

The Common Data Set

Reviewing an institution’s Common Data Set, a 30+ page statistical report is one of the best and most accurate ways to find up-to-date data on a university or college. A school’s Common Data Set contains information including but not limited to:

  • The academic profiles, grades, and standardized test scores of recently accepted freshmen
  • The college or university’s application and admittance requirements
    The weights are given to the various application subsections by the institution when evaluating prospective students
  • The undergraduate class size
  • The student-to-faculty ratio
  • The cost of attendance
  • The percentage of financial aid granted to students
  • The breakdown of loans versus grants in the average financial aid packages

All students should be actively reviewing the information in the Common Data Set of interesting colleges and universities when compiling their list of colleges to which they plan to apply. Juniors especially should be comparing their own high school academic record (GPA, SAT, ACT scores, etc…) to those reported about current freshmen in the Common Data Sets of the schools they are interested in in order to gain a better understanding of the college or university’s application requirements and their own chances of gaining acceptance into that institution.

Students should be using the data reported on in the Common Data Set to help them assess whether the schools they are considering can be considered a good Safety, Match, or Reach school.

Common Data Set

Finding a School’s Common Data Set

The quickest way to find the college or university’s most recent Common Data Set is to google “Common Data Set of School Name” or “School Name’s Institutional Research.” You can also find this information often on the school’s website, though this may require some searching.

To help in your research, the College Office has included below a list of links to popularly requested Common Data Sets for your convenience.

Idaho State University                                                         

Illinois Wesleyan University                                                

Indiana University                                                               

Indiana University of Pennsylvania                                      

Iowa State University  

Penn State (all campuses)                                                     

Pepperdine University                                                            

Pitzer College                                                                          

Pomona College                                                                     

Princeton University                                                                

Purdue University     

Toggle Content

Reed College                                                                          

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute                                            

Rhodes College                                                                      

Rice University                                                                        

Rowan University                                                                      

Rutgers University   

U Illinois UC 

UC Berkeley 

UC Davis 

UC Riverside                                                                                 

UC Santa Barbara                                                                         

UC Santa Cruz                                                                                

Union College                                                                                   

U.S. Military Academy at West Point                                              

University of Akron                                                                         

University of Alabama                                                                    

University of Alaska                                                                         

University of Arizona                                                                       

University of California Irvine                                                            

University of California Los Angeles                                                 

University of California San Diego                                                    

University of Cincinnati                                                                     

University of Colorado                                                                     

University of Connecticut                                                                 

University of Delaware                                                                     

University of Florida                                                                         

University of Georgia                                                                       

University of Houston                                                                       

University of Idaho                                                                          

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign                                     

University of Iowa                                                                              

University of Kansas                                                                         

University of Maryland 

University of Massachusetts – Amherst                                             

University of Massachusetts – Boston                                              

University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth                                          

University of Maryland, Baltimore                                                     

University of Miami                                                                           

University of Michigan                                                                      

University of Minnesota                                                                     

University of Missouri                                                                         

University of Nebraska – Lincoln                                                         

University of Nevada Las Vegas                                                       

University of New Hampshire                                                             

University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill)                                          

University of North Dakota                                                                  

University of North Texas                                                                   

University of Pennsylvania                                                                  

University of Pittsburgh                                                                       

University of Portland                                                                            

University of Rhode Island                                                                    

University of Richmond                                                                        

University of Rochester                                                                       

University of Scranton                                                                         

University of South Carolina                                                                

University of South Florida                                                                   

University of Southern California                                                         

University of Southern Indiana                                                             

University of Texas at Austin                                                                

University of Texas at Arlington                                                             

University of Vermont                                                                           

University of Virginia                                                   

University of Washington                                                                        

University of Wisconsin – Madison                                                        

University of Wisconsin – Parkside                                                       

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh                                                           

University of Wyoming

Vanderbilt University                                                                             

Vassar College                                                                                      

Villanova University                                                                               

Virginia Commonwealth University                                                          

Virginia Military Institute

Wake Forest University                                                                           

Washington and Lee University                                                            

Wellesley College                                                                                 

Wesleyan University                                                                              

Western Carolina University                                                                 

Western Washington University                                                              

Wheaton College                                                                                  

Whitman College                                                                                   

Wichita State University                                                                          

Willamette University                                                                            

William and Mary Common Data Set                                                     

Williams College       

Worcester Polytechnic

Toggle Content
Toggle Content