How to Measure Your Level of Interest in a College

The first version of your college list is big! Now it’s time to figure out how excited you are about the schools on your college list. The second step in the SMART college list building process is to measure your level of interest in a school.

This is SMART, a 5 part step-by-step process for Building Your College List:

1. Start Big! Your initial list should be expansive.
2. Measure your level of interest in the schools on your list.
3. Assess your acceptance likelihood and affordability for each school.
4. Research the remaining colleges on your list.
5. Trim your college list by the beginning of senior year.

You can create and track your college list with our free downloadable spreadsheet.

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HIGH level of interest

You’ve already shown demonstrated interest in this college. Whether it’s because of an academic program of interest or where it’s located or because it’s a strong merit aid college and you think you may get a merit aid scholarship, for whatever reason you feel like you belong on this school’s campus. You can find your personalized merit aid matches at MeritMore.

Pro tip: Organize colleges, keep track of details and see a visual breakdown of both your acceptance likelihood and affordability balance with MeritMore’s free college list spreadsheet.

MEDIUM level of interest

You already know a lot about this school. You may not have done a deep dive into researching it yet, but you can comfortably see yourself on campus. This school is a good option for you and you’re eager to learn more about it. 

LOW level of interest

You don’t know a lot about this school and you’re not really that interested in it . . . yet. It’s on your list because it ‘should’ be. It meets some of your criteria, but not all. 

Pro tip: Keep 4 to 6 ‘low interest level’ schools on your list until it’s time to trim your list before the beginning of senior year. They may move up after you research all the schools on your college list.

A Few Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t save your HIGH level of interest labels for expensive ‘dream’ schools alone. Once you assess your acceptance likelihood and affordability you’ll see that few students can afford them and fewer still get accepted!
  • Do measure your level of interest in every school on your big list. This is an important step in the college list building process.
  • Do use your levels of interest to help you organize your college list and see how much effort is required to research all the schools.
  • Do keep an open mind! Leave a number of schools in each interest level on your list. After some research, schools with the MEDIUM or LOW interest label can move up.

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