There are nearly 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, including about 2,000 four-year schools.  This is an overwhelming number of potential choices.  You’re looking to choose one!

When you’re beginning the college application process, how can you narrow the choices to a more reasonable number?

I am a college counselor.  Here is advice I give to my students, nearly all of whom are Christians.   I begin by asking them a fundamental question: If you are serious about your faith, shouldn’t you plan to attend a college that takes your faith seriously?

All college counselors, whether Christians or not, will tell you that fit is the most important factor in making the best college choice.  Doesn’t it make sense that a Christian college is where a Christian student will find the environment most conducive to the best college experience – one that includes the spiritual component rather than excluding it?

I’ve got really good news for you!  There are about one hundred liberal arts colleges (plus a number of Bible colleges) that are intentionally Christ-centered.  Therefore, unless you specifically sense the Lord calling you to a secular college for some reason, a Christian college should be your intended destination.  Guess what – you have immediately whittled your potential college list by about 95%. That’s a great start!

Even so, your list of 100+ colleges is still too large.  This is where you can use other factors to help you find a more likely fit.  These factors will vary in importance.  For some students, finding a specific major might be important.  For some, the college’s location, distance from home, or certain geographic feature may be a factor.

I firmly believe that the college’s general academic climate is important to finding a good fit.  Colleges vary in their degree of academic intensity, which means that the combination of the comfort and challenge levels will feel more appropriate to you (be a better fit) at some colleges than at others.  And even with Christian colleges, the spiritual atmosphere will be unique – no two colleges will “feel” exactly alike.

You should be able to whittle your list of possible choices to a reasonable number – perhaps 8 to 12 – using the factors I’ve mentioned above.  Then you’ll be able to spend time researching those colleges in greater detail to consider how they might be a good fit, and whittling the list to the ones you’ll actually decide to apply to.  At some point, you’ll want to visit your top choices, staying overnight in the residence hall and envisioning yourself as a student there.  If your visit confirms the way you feel about the college, chances are you’ll end up choosing a college that’s a great fit.

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