Chat with us

How To Research Colleges: 4 Steps To Finding the Perfect School

11 JUL 2022

Researching colleges, while incredibly exciting, is no simple task. There are thousands of colleges and universities in the US and hundreds in the UK. While the vast array of options means you will be spoiled for choice — and that you can definitely build an application list that aligns with your goals and passions — it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to navigating the often complex college research landscape.


We’ve come up with 4 steps you can follow to kick start your college research journey, each of which will help you narrow down on the best fit colleges and universities for you! But before we dive into the 4 steps, let’s first consider why college research is such an important part of your application process!

Why should you do College Research?

Every high school student knows that you should research different schools before applying. But why is it so important to conduct thorough college research? Put simply, it is because every college applicant is different. It is important to consider multiple factors when researching schools and what may be important to you when you finally decide upon your future college.

Since college research is integral to deciding where to apply, you should start researching schools as early as possible. Ideally, you should try and start this process at least one year before application deadlines (the earlier the better) to give you ample time to refine your list of preferred colleges.

Additionally, your interests in high school should help guide you in figuring out what to look for when researching colleges. Before even beginning your college research, you should take time to think about the classes and extracurriculars you currently enjoy, and may want to continue in college and beyond.

Finally, you should also start thinking about a way to structure your college research. After looking at some statistics, such as acceptance rates, and taking stock of your own academic profile, consider categorizing potential schools as either “safety”, “target”, “reach” or even “extreme reach”. Our college admissions calculator can help you classify your favorite schools into the above groups.

College acceptance calculator

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing College Research

Now that we have actually established the importance of college research, next we must tackle exactly how to research colleges. This step-by-step guide will set you on the right path to discovering which college is the right fit for you!

1. Figure out your Preferences and/or Priorities

Before even beginning your college research, you should try to identify what exactly you are looking for in your ideal college. This will help you filter out the colleges that don’t interest you and to narrow down your research list.

Our college admissions calculator can help with this and may help you initially get an idea of what universities might be best suited for you. After checking out our admissions calculator, start considering a list of different factors that may help you determine what you are looking for in your ideal college and what you consider to be important while researching schools.

Some important factors include:

  • Location: would you rather study somewhere rural, urban, or suburban? Would you prefer to live somewhere similar to where you grew up, or are you looking for an entirely new environment?
  • Size: would you prefer a smaller or larger school? Are you looking to be a part of a large campus crowd or a close-knit community?
  • Academics: are you looking for a university that is more focused on undergraduate teaching or research opportunities? What do you want to study? It is common for high school students to not be entirely sure what they want to study in college, but if you do happen to have a major in mind, make sure to research the best schools within your chosen field of study.
  • Cost: is cost an issue for you? If so, are you eligible for any scholarships or for financial aid? While cost can be an important factor, do not necessarily let high tuition costs prevent you from applying to a school you really like.

Once considering these key factors, it may also help to start thinking about other minor considerations, such as:

  • Social aspects
  • Housing
  • Food and dining options
  • Extracurricular interests
  • Athletic opportunities

In regards to the athletic factor, if you are interested in pursuing sport at a varsity level in college, make sure to familiarize yourself with the recruiting process. Maybe even book a consultation with our team, who can help you leverage both your athletics and your academics to gain acceptance into your dream school.

Of course, the above lists and suggestions are far from exhaustive, but it is important to start considering your preferences in regards to these major factors before beginning your college research. Having an idea of what is important to you in your ideal college will help you narrow down your search before you even start.

Book a free consultation

 2. Prepare a List and Begin your College Research

After figuring out your priorities and preferences, the next step is to actually start researching colleges. Keep track of each college you research and make notes of what you liked and disliked about that school.

If you know a current student at a college you are researching, consider reaching out to them to ask about their experience so far. As you complete your research, keep in mind your preferences and consider giving each school a rating out of five or ten for each factor.

Make a note of any special features you come across while researching each school, as this may help you remember what set that college apart from others as you review your list later down the road.

Don’t forget that there are many online resources at your disposal that can help you with your college research. Make sure to check out our website for university profiles, which cover a number of top US and UK universities.

You can also peruse our blog, which regularly publishes in-depth guides to help you apply to different schools. We also offer a number of eBooks that offer insights into some of the most prestigious schools in the US and the UK.

You could also venture over to our YouTube channel and take a look at our videos covering different universities and following a day in the life of current students.

Finally you can attend one of our webinars, during which our admissions experts and Former Admissions Officers offer tips and inside knowledge as to what top schools are looking for.

A Day in the Life: MIT Student

3. Refine your List and Consider Acceptance Rates

After performing your college research, it is time to narrow down your list. Once again, categorize your favorite schools into either “safety”, “target”, “reach” or “extreme reach”. Make sure to check out the US News or QS World Rankings to find out more about the reputation of each school.

Also ensure that you research acceptance rates in order to get an idea of how difficult it will be to gain admission. Remove any schools from your list that do not fit your needs as you conclude the college research process. At the end of this stage, you should ideally have a list of anywhere between ten and fifteen schools that fit your criteria.

4. Speak to a College Admissions Consultant

Now that you have your ideal colleges in mind, this would be the perfect time to book a free consultation with one of our expert Academic Advisors! Not only can they look over your list to make sure that you haven’t missed any universities that might be a good fit for you, they can also provide a clearer picture of what you may need to do to increase your chances of admission to each of the schools on your list.

Researching universities is no easy task. However, if you start with these steps you will be on your way to figuring out your ideal colleges in no time!

Book a free consultation

What Makes Crimson Different

Start Your Journey To A Top University Today!

Crimson students are up to 7x more likely to gain admission into their dream university! Book a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you get there!