Skip to main content

How to Choose a College: A Guide to Navigating your College Search

HomeNews StoriesHomepage NewsHomepage NewsHow to Choose a College: A Guide to Navigating your College Search

Applying to college is one of the first big steps you will take in determining your future. You might be ready for this next step, but unsure of where to begin in the process of choosing a college.

Students typically start thinking about college in the 10th or 11th grade and begin to make serious decisions about applying in the 12th grade. The College Board suggests students apply to between four and eight schools, but with over 4000 higher education institutions in the United States, how do learners know which colleges they should apply to? Here are some crucial factors to consider when looking for colleges to apply to.

How Many College Applications Should I Submit?

Admission experts recommend students apply to between four and 12 schools. It is important to take application fees into consideration and prioritize schools in your application list. Divide the list of schools into three groups, Safety Schools, Target Schools, and Reach Schools.

How to Decide Which College is Right for Me?

Students typically work with parents/guardians or school guidance counselors to develop a list of colleges that are a good fit for them academically and socially. You will need to take various factors into account, but early into the process, it is a good idea to start with general interest.

Step 1: Make a general interest-based list.

A good place to start is with a list of public and private schools, both local and out-of-state. This list should include 10-15 colleges, all of which align with your personal, academic, and professional goals. It is important to consider various experiences when compiling this initial list. Are you interested in a school in the city? Do you want to attend a school close to home? Do the schools offer programs that you are interested in exploring?

Step 2: Eliminate Schools Based on Wants and Needs. 

The next step is to eliminate schools based on your wants and needs. Identify your needs in a college experience. Do you need an involved campus community? Do you know what academic programs you want to be involved in, or are you better suited to explore your interests at a liberal arts institution? Knowing what you want for your college experience will help you decide what schools stay on your list in this process of elimination.Some factors to consider are:

Institutions like Fontbonne offer students a strong foundation for students with a broad range of interests to achieve career and life goals. It is important to consider your preferred learning style as well. A small student-to-faculty ratio, such as Fontbonne’s 10:1 ratio fosters ideal opportunity for discussion and personalized support for your academic goals. A larger class size may offer a faster-paced learning environment.

Step 3: Visit College Campuses.

Campus visits are a good way to get a feel for the environment, culture, and location of the college’s campus. Although much of the information about a college or university can be found online, visiting a campus remains a reliable way to get a true-to-life feel of a potential College or University.

By exploring a college’s campus, you and your family can readily picture yourselves attending. Fontbonne has open house events, personal tours, and virtual visits to help give you an insider’s look at our campus. Be sure to ask your tour guides and the admission counselor questions that will help you make the right decision about attending. Some helpful questions include:

  • What makes this University/college stand out from others?
  • What kind of support can students and their families receive?
  • Which majors are most popular?
  • Are classes led by professors or teaching assistants?
  • What is the average in scholarships awarded to first-year students?

Step 4: Consider the Cost of Attendance

Doing some research about the cost of attendance at the institutions on your list is a big step in the college search process. Many of the most affordable colleges offer financial aid packages and institutional aid that help offset the cost of attendance.

At Fontbonne, your financial aid package could contain a variety of scholarships, grants, and work-study options depending on your need and merit-based awards.First-time college freshmen could be eligible for up to $6,500 in scholarships per academic year. Learn more about Fontbonne’s tuition and scholarships here.

Choosing a college does not have to be a confusing process. At Fontbonne, our admission counselors are ready to help you find your right fit. Reach out to our counselors with any questions you might have about the college application process.

We are using cookies to give you the best experience. You can find out more about which cookies we are using or switch them off in privacy settings.
AcceptPrivacy Settings


  • GDPR Privacy Policy
  • Google Analytics

GDPR Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

Overall Policy

Thank you for visiting our website. We’re pleased to share our policy regarding the use of information received here. Privacy is a matter of concern to us. We are committed to protecting your privacy and the security of the information that you may provide to us.

Personal Information

We do not track individual users. Your email address or other personal information is not collected unless you provide it on a form, survey or application. We will not sell or otherwise make available any personally identifiable information to any organization not directly affiliated with us. We will comply with legitimate government or legal requests as necessary to protect our organization or to comply with laws.

Traffic Analysis

We analyze traffic to this site. We collect statistical data on an aggregated basis through Google Analytics. For example, we collect information about the domain names of servers that bring visitors to our site. We count the number of visitors and keep track of where they go on our site. Such information allows us to find out what areas users visit most frequently and what services they access the most, which enables us to create a better overall user experience. To gather such data, we use cookie technology, which collects data in aggregate form, not by individual user.


As referenced above, we use cookie technology for traffic analysis. Cookies are small pieces of information stored by your browser on your computer’s hard drive. The cookies placed by our server do not gather personal information about you, do not provide any way for us to contact you and do not gather information about your computer. The cookies simply allow us to enhance our site by letting us know what sections are visited most often. The use of cookies is common on the Internet, and our use of them is similar to that of other reputable online organizations.

Links To Other Sites

Our site contains links to other sites and Internet resources. We are not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of these third-party websites and Internet resources.

Updates To Privacy Policy

We may update the privacy policy periodically, and we encourage visitors to review them on a regular basis.

Last revised: June 2015

Google Analytics

Fontbonne University to close in summer 2025 leaving a legacy of more than 100 years of Catholic higher education.Learn More