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Narrowing Your Choices


You may have started your junior year with a list of 10 to 15 schools that seemed like possible matches. These should be schools that seem about right academically and athletically – and also meet your criteria for size and location.

During your junior year, you should research the schools more carefully and narrow the list. The goal is to have a list of five to eight schools, some “reach” schools either academically or athletically, and some “safety” schools. Safety schools are schools that will likely admit you based on your academic record and athletic ability.

Factors to consider as you narrow your list:


  • How likely are you to be admitted or to make the team? Compare your GPA and SAT scores to the school’s averages, and talk to high school and college coaches to determine which schools are the best matches.

  • How much will it cost? Don’t look only at the sticker price – some schools provide generous financial aid, based on need, athletic ability or academic success.

  • Are the school’s size and location acceptable? Some students know they want to go to a small college; others want a program that only a larger university can provide. If you know you don’t want to go far from home, confine your search to nearby schools. However, keep an open mind as you search: Perhaps you will find a school and program that are worth leaving your home state to attend.

  • Is the athletic program a good fit? Research each program’s coaching staff, history, size and funding. Compare each team’s best performers to your own to assess how well you will be able to compete and contribute.

  • Is the academic program right for you? If you want to major in a particular subject, see if each college or university is strong in that area. Research the schools’ academic reputations, and determine whether each school would be sufficiently challenging but not too difficult.


At the end of this process, you should have the list of schools you will be targeting going into your senior year. Compile a list of application and financial aid deadlines for these schools, and arrange to visit as many of them as possible.

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