University of Virginia

The Importance of The List

Many high school sophomores and juniors and their parents are spending time working on the list of possible colleges to attend.  Input is being sought from guidance counselors and guide books.  It seems that another new ranking of “the best” colleges comes out weekly.  The mail is filled with glossy viewbooks.  Factor in the silent network of friends’ opinions and  Facebook comments and before you know it a list starts to form.

The list matters, maybe more than you know.  Schools that are left off the early editions are hard to add later.  The focus is on winnowing, not expanding.  Perhaps that’s a practical necessity, but that also means you need to start with a good foundation.  Don’t worry about being selective initially; in fact, be inclusive.  Make it a point to add schools that you have to research to find, ones that don’t come immediately to mind.

This is especially true for parents.  Our impressions of schools might be based on more years of life than our teens but that does not mean they are more accurate if we are relying on ideas we’ve held for years.  Colleges change, often dramatically, and if we think we know exactly what a school is like because that’s how it was when we were teenagers we are sorely mistaken.

This is a two-part challenge. To students, keep your mind open.  Don’t get locked in to big name schools, or to one rating system, or to one counselor’s suggestions.   To parents, don’t rely on stale opinions.  Do your own, new research.  Make a point to find at least five schools that surprise you as possible places for your son or daughter.  They are out there, you just need to look.

Our College Match helps your family do just that.