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8 Tips for Choosing Your Ideal College

Do you feel overwhelmed when it comes to making decisions about college? How do you know which school is the right fit? Is a big or small university environment best? And do you have enough credentials to get accepted? Based on an honest assessment of your strengths, special talents, and what you desire in a college, you should begin evaluating what schools you may have an interest in attending early in your high school career. Though applications aren’t required until senior year, planning ahead will help formulate these important choices.

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Choosing Applications Wisely

There are so many possible applications and so little time to send them. When deciding on which and/or how many colleges you should apply to during the summer and early fall of senior year, there are several important factors to consider. You can obtain a clear perspective on what you are looking for with these tips for choosing the college that’s right for you:

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TIP 1:  Review your academic path. Evaluate your course load, GPA, and standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, and SAT subject tests). 

TIP 2: Research grade requirements. Using guidebooks and websites, compare your achievements to the test and GPA range requirements of the colleges that are of interest.

TIP 3: Be realistic about location. How far you are willing to travel from home? Weigh this against the school credentials, unique benefits, and living arrangements.

TIP 4: Evaluate tuition costs. Compare the in-state vs. out-of-state costs and any scholarship advantages offered.

TIP 5: Contemplate scholarship opportunities. Which schools might consider you eligible for merit scholarship consideration? MPCS offers a comprehensive list for our students in our college planning handbook.

TIP 6. Consider the academic rigor. Do you prefer to be at the top, middle, or to be very comfortable academically at this college? Research the school’s culture and environment.

TIP 7: What environment suits you? Could you thrive at a large school or do you need a smaller community? Do you enjoy the mountains or a city scene?

TIP 8: Think about your long-term goals. Make sure your choice schools truly offer the program of study that will prepare you for your future career. Your top-choice school may not be the best fit so be sure that this educational investment gets you specialization on where you need to be upon earning your degree. Also, with the rising demand of specialized vocations, you may also consider applying to a trade school to learn required skills.


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Apply to These Schools

From experience in working with hundreds of seniors applying to their favorite schools, we strongly encouraged you to apply to a variety of colleges in these typical categories:

  • SAFETY (very likely to be admitted): A “safety” school is a college that you will almost certainly be accepted to based on test scores and high school grades that are well above the average admitted student. Have at least one “fiscal safety” college also — often an in-state public university.
  • PROBABLE (mid-range or good/solid chance): Apply to some “probable” colleges, especially if searching for scholarships or highly favorable financial packages.
  • REACH (could be difficult to be accepted): Do apply for some “reach” colleges. Remember, if you don’t apply, there is no chance for acceptance!

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Do careful research and think reflectively about your options. This should yield applications to approximately 6-8 universities. There are exceptions, but the most important thing is to have a plan that includes a range of colleges in the application pool that aims for the best fit for your future.

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Ask For Help

Guiding each student in the college exploration process is one way MPCS differentiates itself from many other schools. Counselors work with every family to plan student course loads and prepare for the college application process. Our goal is to ensure that you explore the path God has laid out for you, no matter how different that may look from student to student. The objective is to set you up for success in being accepted into the college program that is right for you.


Dr. Trici Holmes serves as a the Director of College Counseling in high school, providing personal college-planning support for students at Mount Paran Christian School.

Click here for information on the MPCS college counseling program.



To learn more about how challenging academics offered in the MPCS high school can lead you to acceptance to your college choice, please click here.



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Providing academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment, Mount Paran Christian School unites with home and church to prepare servant-leaders to honor God, love others, and walk in Truth.