6 Factors to Narrow Your College Search

Both parents and students can research parts of the school experience.

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Starting the college search is full of excitement and promise. Narrowing your results can be more difficult.

JULIE: Helping your student narrow their college search can be a complicated proposition. Some become very focused on a single school, and may need to be encouraged to consider a few alternatives. Others will like every school they visit or investigate, and may need help limiting their options to a more manageable number.

[Read about the 25 percent of students who apply to at least seven colleges.]

Here are some ways to help your child narrow his or her choices, while still maintaining options.

1. Geography: Now that you've got a few college visits under your belt, your student is probably becoming more aware of how far from home he or she wants to go. If not, you might revisit some of the things that geography impacts, such as weather and the costs of traveling home.

[Find out how staying in your region can save you thousands on tuition.]

2. Majors: If you child is going into college with a major in mind, you want to check out each school's strength in that area. But make sure they offer a lot of alternative majors of interest as well, in case your student makes a change. That way, a change in major won't require a change in schools.

[Peruse the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.]

3. Money: Money will come down to two big things: sticker price and scholarship and financial aid offers. By now, you're probably getting some specifics in these areas.

[See why you shouldn't rely on a college sticker price.]

And don't forget to track things like room, board, and fees. These costs can vary considerable from school to school. As Lindsey began to narrow her search, I created a spreadsheet to track these different things.

LINDSEY: As time goes on, having too many schools left in the ring can be stressful. After being accepted to a school, you'll have to think about other applications for housing, honors programs, scholarships, and more. That's why I recommend narrowing down your list of schools sooner rather than later. It will save you a lot of time and money in the end!

[Use these 10 steps to pick the right school for you.]

Here are some other ways I found to help narrow the search:

1. Size: I looked at small, medium, and large schools, but I realized after visiting each that I definitely wanted to attend a large or mid-sized university. Decide what your ideal size range is and then consider dropping the schools outside of that.

2. Activities: Do you want a school with an active Greek life? A Division I football team? A debate squad? If there are any activities you'd like to try, investigate what your schools offer, and factor that into your final decision.

[Use these seven considerations to help decide if Greek life is for you.]

You may fall in love with something that will help you get involved as a freshman, which is really important.

3. Location: My mom talked about determining how far you want to venture from home, but also consider whether you want to go to school in a college town, a big city, or somewhere in between.

Going to school in Lawrence, Kan., has been a great experience. The town has character, and everyone here seems to absolutely love the University of Kansas. On the other hand, urban universities may offer exciting nightlife and great local internships.

[See which universities produce the most interns.]