Choosing a college (3): FAQs

Q: When is a good time to start thinking about colleges?

Choosing a college: FAQs

Answer: In short, it’s never too early! We highly recommend that parents take their elementary school-aged children to events on college campuses, such as concerts or art exhibits, to expose them to a college atmosphere.

Students in middle school should begin visiting local colleges, taking notes on what they like and dislike, and researching various factors such as how many students attend and what programs the school is best known for. offers virtual tours of many schools for students who cannot visit in-person.

Throughout high school, students should schedule official college tours while classes are in session to gain a more realistic picture of what the school is like (Pro Tip: make it a family outing, so that younger siblings can also gain exposure to colleges).

Q: How many schools should I apply to?

Answer: Ten to fifteen schools is optimal. If a student is applying to multiple institutions within the same public school system, such as the UCs, all schools should be counted as one since they share an application.

Choosing a college: FAQs

Q: What are your top tips for creating a college list?


1. Talk to teachers and mentors to learn about their experiences.

2. Don’t lose focus: students still need to accomplish the fundamentals (academics and extracurricular involvement).

3. Ask: why do you want to go to this school?

Answers such as “because the school is prestigious” are superficial and will not offer much of a distinction between top-ranked schools. Instead, students should consider what a given school offers in the way of opportunities that will enable them to reach their personal and professional goals. This leads into our next recommendation…

4. Spend an hour a week researching colleges to identify opportunities that stand out. Students should also make use of college fairs, college expos, and information sessions (many schools send representatives across the country to conduct these sessions).

Schools often post notifications for such events, organized by state, in the Admissions section of their websites. You may also receive invitations directly from schools after requesting information or joining a school’s mailing list.

5. A GPS cannot go anywhere if it doesn’t have a destination. However, the destination can always change according to academic progress and interests, so students and parents should be flexible when creating and updating their college list.

Choosing a college: FAQs

Now, let’s get back to Joanna. Given her academic statistics, her major and professional interests, and her preferences in regards to school atmosphere, we’d suggest that she focus on research universities, since they afford many opportunities to contribute to research in the medical field. This will give her an edge in the application process to medical school, four years down the line.

She can choose between public and private research institutions, although her desire for a more intimate atmosphere may cause her to lean towards private schools, where classes and overall campus sizes tend to be smaller. However, she should still apply to in-state public research universities, since she may be eligible for significant tuition breaks which may inform her decision depending on her family’s financial situation.

Joanna will need to be realistic about the schools to which she applies. Her academics may not be on target for many of the top-ranked schools — all the more so because she is applying to a highly competitive major. Factoring in her extracurricular involvement and the rigor of her courses, we’d recommend “reach” schools such as UCLA and USC, and “possible” schools including Carnegie Mellon, Emory, and Tufts.

Whether your student is just starting to think about their dream colleges or is preparing to begin the college application process, the Admission Masters can help! We’ll work directly with your student to create a personalized college list that takes the guesswork out of applying. Contact us today for a free consultation!

College Admission Consulting Group, ‘Admission Masters’
[LA, Irvine, Brea, San Marino, Seoul in Korea] 

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