What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Organize Your College Search

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Ronnie Shaw in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



Create Your College List 


Organize Your Search


The best way to create a college list is via spreadsheet. This is a good time to get comfortable with Excel or Google Sheets, for college and for your future career. Planning in an organized structure like this is an important life skill, so it’s good to start now!


In the columns, you’ll want to fill data around the acceptance rate, any deadlines, and contact information about the school. You might also want to record the size, such as the number of undergraduates and the number of graduate students. Having all of those details in one place is very helpful. 


You might also want to include campus culture details that are important to you, such as if the school has Greek life, a football team, or certain clubs. If you have any custom data you want to capture or a space to take your own notes with miscellaneous information, it’s also a good idea to create columns for that information. 


Share Your List


The sheet is not only a valuable tool for you, but anyone else who’s invested in your application journey and is helping out with this process. It’s also helpful to share this sheet with the adults in your life, including parents, guidance counselors, or current college students/alumni of your prospective schools.


Do Your Research for Each School


How to Start 


A good place to gather details about colleges is on the school website. If, after researching on the school website, you have remaining questions, you can call some of the schools that you’re interested in. For more academic questions, you may be able to call or email some professors on campus. If they’re teaching a class you’re interested in, or their specialty or research is in an area you want to pursue, you can ask some questions about what they’re doing and potentially how you might work in their lab.


Reach Out to Colleges and Demonstrate Interest


Outreach like that, along with joining email lists, touring, and info sessions will demonstrate your interest in the school. When you apply, there will be a little check mark in your column that you have shown interest in the school. Not all schools consider demonstrated interest, though. You can see a full list of which schools consider demonstrated interest and how here.


How to Use Your College List


Every college list is going to be different, and once you’ve built yours, you can use it in a variety of different ways to make it the best tool for you. You can track your deadlines as you progress through different parts of your application, from inputting your demographic information, to tracking your essay progress, to filling out financial aid forms.


You might also want to take notes on this document as you go through college visits. This serves two purposes: one, you can recall what you liked about the campus as you consider which schools you want to apply to and attend, and two, you can include details from your visit in any supplemental essays that ask about your interest in the school.


Regardless of how you use your list, all applicants can benefit from having their materials and progress tracked in one central location. A college list is a great resource to utilize throughout your admissions process, and the more time you invest into creating and personalizing yours, the more it can work for you to facilitate your admissions journey.