How to Make a College List for College Admissions

[fa icon="calendar"] 8/9/16 1:18 PM / by Empowerly Team

Empowerly Team

Applying to college has become a science and students often ask us how to create their college list for college admissions. There are many approaches and ways to do this, but here at Empowerly we have developed a series of metrics to help students categorize colleges, choose the number of colleges to apply to, and be confident in their choices. In this article, we will review the types of colleges and the different approaches to college list creation.

Types of Colleges

There are really three types of colleges: liberal arts, national, and “pointed” schools. Liberal arts colleges focus on traditional liberal arts majors but have recently expanded to STEM. In fact, a strategy we use with our students at Empowerly is to always apply to a few liberal arts schools to round out a school list. Many liberal arts colleges are significantly adding to their STEM curriculum and most have majors in the field.

The second type of college is the national university. These are large research universities that often have several schools within them that focus on engineering, arts and sciences, and other disciplines. They include colleges like Stanford, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins. We always recommend students apply to a few of these to make sure they have the option to go to a college that has several major options for study.

The final type of college are what we call “pointed” colleges. These colleges are particularly strong at a few subjects and often significantly weaker in other subjects. In fact, their admissions rates vary widely depending on the type of major. One of the most common fallacies we hear are that parents think many schools are pointed schools when in fact they are national universities. Examples of pointed schools include UIUC and other public school systems that particularly strong in engineering.

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Types of College Lists

We believe there are two types of college lists - aggressive and regular. We categorize schools across four key buckets - safety, target, challenge, and reach. We add in challenge because we believe there is often miscategorization between target and reach for many students. Making that category more distinct is critical to ensure that school lists are balanced.

Aggressive college lists are focused on the challenge and reach and they often are used by students applying to more than 10 colleges with us. Regular lists are more balanced across the categories. With most students and parents that we work with, aggressive lists are what we use as they increase a student’s odds of getting into a reach school if we can apply to more colleges.

Developing a college list can be tough and often requires a lot of thinking. The two major factors are the number of colleges and the types of colleges you are applying to. In this article, we reviewed the two types of lists and the types of colleges. If you need more assistance, visit and ask us there about your specific situation.


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Topics: College Applications

Empowerly Team

Written by Empowerly Team

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