Since there are literally thousands of colleges from which to choose, you must begin your search by establishing a target list of possibilities to investigate. The following quiz will help you narrow your options and create your criteria for your list of possible colleges. At this point, you don’t need to be looking for the one perfect college but instead finding the schools that best meet your needs. Ask yourself the following questions so that you can begin to start working on your target list.


  • Small (under 2000) where you stand to know everyone?
  • Medium (2000 – 5000) where you’ll know some but not nearly everyone and class sizes will be larger?
  • Large (5000 – 20,000), where classes are held in auditoriums and professors rarely know your name?
  • Very Large (over 20,000) where you can totally blend into the crowd?


  • Do you want to stay close to home or go far away?   
  • Do you want to be in a large metropolitan area or in a smaller, rural setting? 
  • Do you like the idea of a college town or are you thinking of a campus in a city setting? 
  • If you want to go away, do you have a specific area in mind?  What must it offer?
  • Have you set boundaries for how far away you are able to go for college?
  • Are you aware that out-of-state tuition can be quite high?
  • What forms of transportation will be available to you if you want to come home?
  • How often can you afford to come home?
  • What are the positive/negative aspects of a college more than several hours from home?


  • Do you picture yourself on an ivy-covered campus or one with modern buildings?
  • How important is green space to you?
  • Would you like a small, intimate campus or a large, sprawling one?
  • If you’re going to be living on campus, what type of living conditions are you expecting?

Facilities and Support

  • Do you have any special needs?
  • Are athletic facilities important to you?
  • What level of technology are you expecting?
  • Are you highly concerned about safety?

Student Body

  • How important is the friendliness of the student body?
  • Any interest in a single-sex institution?   
  • If you're going to commute, what's the ideal resident to commuter mix?
  • How important is diversity?  Do you prefer a student population with backgrounds similar to yours or a campus with a broad ethnic mix of students?


  • What kind of social life on campus interests you - a serious academic setting or a party atmosphere?
  • Do you want a school where there are hundreds of activities and events to choose from?
  • Are there specific clubs and activities you're interested in?
  • Will you want to join a fraternity or sorority?
  • Are large sporting events important to you?
  • Do you intend to try out for an intercollegiate/varsity sport?
  • What about participating in club or intramural sports?
  • Do you want a college that is involved in the community and encourages volunteering?
  • How about campus ministry or religious organizations?

Academic Reputation

  • How important is it for you to attend a big name school?
  • Do you realistically have the grades to be admitted at a competitive school?
  • If not, what would you consider the top level of school you could get into?  
  • Is a religious affiliation or teachings of importance to you?
  • Do you plan to go on to graduate school?   

Academic Abilities

  • Do you want a school where you will be challenged by tough classes, hard work and classmates as smart as you or would you prefer to be at the top tier of a less competitive school? 
  • If you are in AP and honors classes now, will you want to continue at that level?
  • Based on your class standing, what is a reach school for you?
  • What about a safe school? 

Academic Programs

  • Do you have a major in mind?
  • If you are undecided, would you consider a liberal arts program that offers a wide variety of major options?
  • Are you going to want to test out your career through internships or research projects?
  • Would you be interested in the opportunity to study abroad?
  • Is it more important to have well-known faculty (who may or may not actually teach the courses) or faculty that is really accessible?
  • Do you prefer a smaller teaching institution or a large university where many professors are engaged in research but may not actually teach your courses? 
  • How important is technology in your area of study?


  • Who is paying for your college education?
  • Have you established a budget? 
  • Are you interested in a private college, knowing that costs are higher than public institutions in your state?
  • How realistic are your chances for scholarships and/or financial aid?

Take a look at what you’ve highlighted in each section and use that to answer the following statement: The right college for me will offer:


Before moving on to creating your target list, we highly recommend discussing your criteria with your parents. They have expectations of their own so it is important to let them know what you’re thinking and include them in the process.  If there are areas they strongly disagree with, discuss why and investigate your options.