Prepping for College: What College Should I Go To?

Tyler York
how do I go to college

Thinking about going to college is an important step toward the next chapter of your life. It’s a big decision and making the right one is vital.

With that in mind, you might be asking yourself: What college should I go to? How can I make the right college decision? And how can I get into my dream school? 

Let’s go over these questions and give you the answers you need.

What college should I go to
Photo by Vadim Sherbakov on Unsplash

What College Should I Go To?

Going to college is an important decision. So, it’s not anyone else’s place to decide for you where you should go.

It’s yours. 

Of course, your parents, teachers, friends, and academic advisors will all have opinions – and that’s okay! They most likely just want the best for you. But remember that it is your decision at the end of the day, as it dramatically affects your future.

It would be easy to say “aim for the top” or “pick a safe option.” However, there’s more to it than that.  

Each person has their own unique interests, preferences, and goals. With that in mind, you should choose a school that best fits the goals you want to achieve. You should take into consideration differences such as cost, location, and available programs. 

But, most importantly, you should choose a school that offers the best programs, facilities, and resources for the career you want to pursue in the future. Whether it’s an Ivy League school or a community college, your choice should revolve around what’s best for you and your future. With that out of the way, where should you go?

Make a Ranked List of Colleges

On the surface, having a ranked list of colleges may not seem helpful. The truth is, though, that having a ranked list of colleges can provide some vital insight. Pick a few colleges you want to get into and prioritize which school you want to go into the most. 

Having a ranked list of colleges helps you prepare for admissions, tests, and what deadline you want to pick. With this, you’ll be able to plan around your priority school and your secondary choices. Overall, it wouldn’t hurt to have a list of choices to pick and choose from.

Check out our own college rankings to get a sense for some of the options in your area:

College Advisor and Other Options

If you really have no idea which college is best for you and your goals you can always ask college advisors. 

College advisors are committed to helping students apply to the colleges and universities that best fit their skills and personality. These advisors will help you every step of the way to ensure you find the right choices.

But if you’re not interested in a college advisor you can always go through college search engines and official websites.

Take your time to research everything about the schools you want to get into and see if they’re right for you. You can even ask close friends or family about their choices to help you make a decision. 

Your Test Scores

First of all, you’ll need to take a good look at your grades, SAT, and ACT scores. Those numbers will be vital when admission officers review your transcripts. While your grades and test scores aren’t indicative of you as a person, you need to consider to figure out which college is mostly likely to admit you.

You can see if your test scores are compatible with your desired college easily. With a simple google search, you’ll have all you’ll need to know. 

Using Your Grades and Test Scores to Build a College List

For example, let’s say you want to get admitted into NYU. In this case, you can simply open a google search and type “NYU average ACT score” and usually get a reasonably reliable answer. We also have resources for Ivy League colleges, the hardest colleges to get into, and the easiest colleges to get into that includes ACT scores.

In the case of NYU, the average ACT score is between 31 and 34. To be on the safe side, we recommend your test scores be at or above the 50th percentile mark. So in the case of NYU, you’d want your ACT score to be a 33 or above. 

Typically, you want to pick between 6-8 colleges. Your challenging colleges (often called “reach” schools) will be colleges where your GPA and test scores are in the 25th percentile or below of that particular college. Your safer options (often called “safety” schools) are colleges where your GPA and test scores lie in the 75th percentile of above.

If your GPA and test scores his close to the 50th percentile mark 

From there you can choose a number of schools that fit your preferences and goals. Although it’s important to have a “safe” option, it’s also good to go out of your comfort zone and pick a more competitive school. 

So, when picking a college, you should choose ones that you can feasibly get into while having a “reach” school that is harder to get into. Who knows, you might get in if there your application has other strengths that are harder for an admissions team to ignore.

Acceptance Rates and Grades

Whether you have a low or high GPA, the best way to pick a college to go to is by taking a look at their numbers. Again, you can do this with a quick Google search. 

Find out what their acceptance rates are, what ACT middle percentile score they’re looking for, and if you can get in with your grades. 

You can even find out how many students from your school made it to this college just to give you an idea of your chances. Either way, once you’ve picked out a school where you can get accepted you should also pick a few others with similar admission rates for safety. 

If your grades already pass the 25th percentile mark, then you have a decent chance of getting in.

Best College for Your Career

We briefly touched on this topic earlier but it’s very important to emphasize this point. You should pick the best college for your career. 

While going to college is fun, it’s not the main reason you’re going in the first place. You’re going to college to learn essential skills and knowledge to get ready for your future career. Thus, it’s best to choose a school that prepares you for your desired profession.

While going to the top colleges in the country, like Harvard or Yale, is generally accepted as a good choice, they might not provide the best programs for your desired career/field. Take some time to look up and evaluate the different programs that each college provides and what majors/programs they’re best known for. There are plenty of colleges in the country and each of them has different accolades, faculties, and courses that can suit your needs. This also means that a college that is ‘easier’ to get into may actually be a better fit for you, and is a more realistic option to consider than just aiming straight for the top.

Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash

How to Get into Your Dream School

Regardless of what your reasons are for picking certain schools as your dream school, they’re still important. A dream school is still a dream school and getting into one is your top priority. So how do you make it?

Get Better Test Scores

Standardized tests are vital when it comes to college admissions, and while they’re not as vital as your grades, they’re still important to the admissions officials. These tests aren’t just numbers, they are metrics that show people how far you’ve progressed academically.

With that in mind, having higher SAT and ACT scores can help you net that dream school you’ve been chasing. If you’ve already taken these tests, just know you can retake them to get better scores. 

If you want some help improving your ACT scores feel free to take a look at Achievable’s ACT course.

Memorable Essays

While competitive grades test scores numbers are great metrics for your academic performance, they don’t tell people who you are. That’s the essay’s job.

Essays show colleges your unique character, humanity, and personality.  They emotionally round out your application by showing what your goals are, and whether or not you’re a good fit for their college. 

Writing up compelling personal statements and essays can really showcase your interests and skills and to the admission officials. And, if your GPA is on the low side, you can write an essay to help explain your situation or show them you’re more than just a low grade.

Have Good Letters of Recommendation

While recommendations and references are sometimes optional, they’re far from useless. Getting a recommendation or having a reference from teachers or counselors can improve your chances of getting into your dream college.

These references can help admission officials get a good judge of character, it can show how you’ve improved from an outsider point of view, and it can give credibility to your achievements. A good reference or recommendation you might even be able to offset bad grades.

Whoever writes your recommendation letters should know you well. Don’t ask the first person willing to brag about you. Ask someone who attest to your integrity first and your talents second. 

With that said, don’t just ask the most prestigious person who knows you. 

For example, Becky Munsterer-Sabky, a director of admissions at Dartmouth, claimed that one of the most memorable recommendation letters she read was when a school’s janitor wrote vouched for the kindness and character of an applying student. 

Essentially, whoever writes your rec letter needs to be able to vouch for your character.

Extracurriculars and Other Projects

Taking extracurriculars and extra courses can really show off who you are and what you can do outside of the classroom. 

You can even do school projects with student organizations, such as volunteer work, creative pursuits, or even internships. 

Being able to do extracurricular work and projects outside of the four walls of a classroom can really make your application look impressive. 

Ideally, you want your extra curriculars to communicate specified passion, skill, and impact.

For example, if you take dance lessons, consider making dance tutorials for people who can’t afford dance lessons. You could even teach lessons at a local community center, or create a small business that leases out your dance tutorials or simply charge for private lessons. 

The same strategy can be paired with music, computer science, foreign language, etc. 

So, if you still have the time, add a few extracurriculars to your schedule, particularly ones that hyper focus on a specific skill that you have.

When you do this, you show admission officials what you’re made of.


Choosing a college and applying to one might seem tough or even anxiety inducing. Fair enough. Going to college is a big step in your life and you should be as prepared as you can be. Though it can be a lot, approaching your college planning strategically greatly increases your chances of both getting into a good school and being happy with the choices you have. Leverage the resources available on the internet to make your list. Take a good look at different colleges and pick a school that has programs and resources for your needs and interests. And of course, make sure your grades and test scores are good enough for the college you’re aiming for.

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