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Choosing Where to Apply: Narrowing Down the List

This is part 2 of a series series on how to choose where to apply to college. We asked three admission staff to share their best advice—and you will get a wide range of practical, fun, and straight-forward insight. Read Part 1: How to Find the Best Fit, and Part 3: Practical Advice and Resources.

There are many factors a student can look at when thinking about their college choice. Many were mentioned in yesterday’s post—size, location, majors—but even when thinking about these factors, I encourage you to think about what’s most important to you as a student.

Prioritize your wants

If all other factors were created equal, do you just know you have to be in an urban setting? Or do you know you want to be more than 3 hours from home? Prioritizing your list, narrowing down what is most (or least) important to you personally, will help some schools rise to the top.

Visit when possible

Visiting schools is great way to narrow down a list of colleges, although, understandably, this process can be time consuming and expensive. Even if you can’t visit every college on your list, try to visit types of schools such as a liberal arts college, a campus in a city, a state flagship institution, a suburban school, etc.  If you like liberal arts colleges, then you may be able to identify similar schools, or if you prefer a campus in a city then finding other colleges in cities is a step in the right direction. Consider virtual visit options to through social media and websites.

Keep your list balanced

Having a well-balanced list of schools is important. You may be tempted to list your “dream schools” first and not give much thought to the rest. However, I encourage you to take the opposite approach. Start off with the schools that are a good fit for you and that are more likely to admit you (will want you!) in return.  It’s easy to find the schools with the 10% admit rate, but can you find the school with the 50% admit rate which will provide you with all the resources you need to be successful? That is where I believe the search should start. Once you find those, you’re well on your way to building a successful college list.

Finding the best fit schools and having a well-rounded list of where you want to apply are great steps in the college application process.

Best of luck in your college search process!

mbutt_portraitMark E. Butt
Associate Dean of Admission and International Recruitment

Mark Butt has been in the higher education profession for over 10 years, including 2 years as a college advisor on the high school side. He has traveled to over 60 countries and read over 14,500 applications for admission during his career. Hailing from Canada, Mark is the admission counselor for Africa, Canada, Central Asia, Europe, India, and the Middle East. Visit the Contact Us page for a full list of staff territories.


Photo courtesy of Jason Kang, 19C.

Don’t hesitate to connect with us by posting a comment to this blog, tweeting us @emoryadmission, or emailing us at We look forward to hearing from you!











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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Emory is the dream school for my daughter. I did have a chance to chat with coaches within my daughter’s sport and the one “fear” that has risen is the actual cost of attending. The Emory admissions calculator did also support this concern.

    Sad, the Rev. Candler and the Woodard families(Coke U.) desire to keep cost under control is slipping away. Fortunately, we are not at the end of this process and there is still time to learn from this process.

  2. Emory University is always my dream school. Your suggestions on college list are really helpful. Thank you!
    Hope to hearing from you during Early Decision.

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