Dear Abby: How do I pick a college?

I feel like I’m in the dark and don’t know what to do.

 Quick Tips:


  • Divide into: top picks, reasonable and still favs, and safety schools
  • How does the college rank in the major you want to study?
  • Is Greek Life a priority?
  • Check college website or directory, get to know all your options, do a college visit, online campus tours, see what the dorms and living spaces are like
  • Check for college fairs or school visits
  • Don’t worry about money… yet (financial aid, scholarships, ask counselors about fee waivers for application)
  • Naviance is a good STARTING point
    • Can help narrow down to colleges that meet your needs and help you pick majors, but get out of the naviance platform when you have a few colleges that standout— go to their websites
  • Get in contact with BVN alum who are going to the colleges you are looking at! (Naviance show show many BVN students are going/went to that college)


We are all in high school, so seniors and even other students in the mists of college applications will probably feel completely lost on picking the college that is right for them. “In the dark” sums it up pretty well. Where do you begin? Where do you turn to? Where do you fit in this giant world of opportunities and directions to chase after? Well, there are plenty of resources you can use that are often right in front of you! Look around to find people in your life who might have more experience with this, who have been through this whole process, who have gone through the college life. Parents! Teachers! Counselors! Siblings! Alumni! These people you have been with for large parts of your life will know you best and have ideas for the schools that will make you feel most at home. After talking to some BVN alumni and some counselors myself, I gathered the following advice for picking a college:


One BVN alumni recommend looking for schools that don’t limit you. Choose a school that you can not only envision yourself at but also could give you endless opportunities to succeed. 

Another past BVN student recommended narrowing your college search by first finding a school that focuses on your interests or majors. Although finding a college that ranks high in a possible major of your interest is a good idea, 80% of students end up changing their major so this is a super flexible decision and shouldn’t create a roadblock for you in your college search. No matter what anyone tells you, it is OK to not know what you want to do with your life!

Another way to start tackling your college search is to divide some of your options into three sections: top picks, reasonable, and safety schools. Your top picks are the schools that are more borderline on your acceptance. You should not be afraid to look at more competitive schools because many colleges are flexible on things like GPA and test scores. The next category is your reasonable schools. These should still be some of your favorites, just more realistic as far as GPA and test scores. Lastly, are your safe schools which should consist of school you are confident you will get accepted to. Dividing up your college choices like this can not only help you narrow down your search but also help you create a backup plan.

Naviance is a good starting point and can help narrow down your search to colleges that meet your needs but get out of the Naviance platform once you have a few colleges that standout.

Try going to the university websites for more info on student life, academics, and admissions requirements. 

Finally, try to reach out to some BVN alumni who are attending the schools you are looking at! This can be a great way to get a first-hand look at the school from someone who was recently in your shoes.