There are over 4,500 colleges and universities in the United States.  The good news is, most of them accept most students. with the national average over 66%. The challenge is choosing the right ones for you.  

Here is a great place to start:


  • Click the "5 Steps" then build a list of 15-50 schools which you will research in-depth and narrow to 8-12 to which you will apply (list size will depend on a few different factors)
  • Explore each school's website
  • Visit in-person
  • Speak to alumni
  • Attend a College Rep visit on your campus
  • Talk to your parents
  • Talk to an Advisor or Counselor
When thinking about where you will spend 4 years of your life, consider your preferences in e
ach area below. Selecting the college that is right for you can be an overwhelming task unless you study the differences between colleges and establish your personal priorities in regards to your college experience.
  1. Size – Colleges range in size from very small (500 students) to very large (35,000+)
  2. Location – Do you prefer to attend college close to home, or do you want to experience a new environment? Would you be able to adjust and function as well, or better, farther from home.
  3. Type – Colleges are either private or public.
  4. Cost – Tuition, fees, room and board, and travel expenses... 
    • Tuition at state-supported schools is substantially lower than that of private schools. Students who wish to attend out-of-state, public schools pay out-of-state tuition fees, which in most cases equate with tuition at a private institution. However, private institutions often provide significantly more financial aid.
    • Financial Aid- Along with federal and state aid, many colleges offer institutional aid to bridge the gap. Some private colleges even offer financial aid that places the cost in line with that of public colleges.
  5. Admission Requirements – In addition to presenting acceptable scores on entrance exams, some colleges require a certain number of units in high school preparatory courses, as well as essays, recommendations, or interviews.
  6. Curriculum and Degrees Offered – Consider the availability of adequate academic programs in the area you intend to study, as well as the requirements for achieving a degree in your major at that particular college.
  7. Honors – Distinctive academic programs may be available to students who meet requirements.
  8. Facilities – Are you interested in the quality of the facilities, including classrooms, laboratories, libraries, residence halls, etc?
  9. Extra-Curricular Activities – The colleges you add to your list should offer a variety of activities which are of interest to you, e.g., student government, social organizations, athletic or intramural activities, etc.
  10. Family Tradition – Your family may have strong ties to a particular college. Consider if this school should be on your list if it's specifications align with your needs/desires in the categories above.
*There are more criteria you can use to evaluate a school. This list should get you started.
When adding schools to your list, you will put each school into 1 of 3 categories - Reach, Target/Match or Safety - based on acceptance rate, your academic criteria, the school's incoming admissions data (GPA & SAT or ACT Scores, AP/Honors Courses) and your chance of acceptance (COA). 

· SAFETY school: academic credentials fall above school's range for the average incoming freshman. Reasonably certain (70+% COA) to be admitted (a likely).

· TARGET/MATCH school: academic credentials fall well within (or even exceed) school's range for the average incoming freshman. There are no guarantees, but it's not unreasonable (50-70% COA) to be accepted to several of your match schools (a maybe).

· REACH school: academic credentials fall below (but could even fall within or exceed) school's range for the average incoming freshman. Reach schools are long–shots (5%-25% COA), but should still be possible. 

PRO TIP: Ivy League schools and the most competitive schools are a reach for anyone (under 20% acceptance rate). These should all be in your Reach Category.


PRO TIP: We recommend a college list ratio of 1:2:1, so if you eventually apply to 12 schools, it would look like this:
• 3 Reach
• 6 Target/Match
• 3 Safety

Keep searching and researching until you’re in love with all  – yes, even the “safety” schools where you’ll likely get in. (Bonus Tip: If you’re applying UC schools, count them as one, since the application and essays will be the same for all of them).

How do I know my chances of getting in?
You can find the general acceptance rates on many sites, but we recommend using parchment.com to find out your real chances.

How do I get a sense of the school's selectivity that is within my range for my college list?
For a quick visual representation of schools that fit your range best, check out our:
PRO TIP: For a school to make it on your list, make sure:
  1. You want to attend 
  2. You meet all the requirements for the required coursework
  3. The major or interest you want is available and you have checked the graduation requirements 
  4. You meet every requirement for admission

The Naviance Family Connection 
College & Career Readiness Program

Naviance is a comprehensive college and career planning software program that will help students throughout the college admissions process. Each CUSD student has their own Naviance account.

Some of the information on Naviance that should benefit students includes:
  • A college search (College SuperMatch) to help you find schools that are the right fit for you.
  • Tasks that are assigned to you by a Counselor or Academic Advisor to assist you in completing all parts of the college search and application process.
  • A current list of scholarships available.
  • A Career Interest survey to help you find the majors and careers you might like.
  • Surveys to complete that will help Counselors and Academic Advisors serve you better.
  • A section to list the schools you are interested in and are applying to so that you get reminder emails letting you know when those colleges are coming to your High School.
These are just some of the great uses for the Naviance software. 

If you need assistance accessing your Naviance Family Connection website, contact your Academic Advisor.

Other Great College 
Search Tools