How to Build Your College List

Recorded Thursday, September 17 at 11:00 PM

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About this livestream


Learn how to build a balanced school list that matches up with your interests and goals before you apply to colleges this fall.

There are more than 2,400 undergraduate colleges in the United States and narrowing that down to the final colleges that you will apply to is an incredibly important part of the college process. Elias Miller will walk through the best methods for building your school list, covering topics such as the optimal length of your school list, how to research colleges and find good ones for your intended major, how to balance risk, how to think about ROI and student outcomes, and many additional topics.

We’ll also open up the floor for a Q&A session to answer any and all questions about building your college list and researching schools.

Your host

Undergrad College: Harvard University '17

Major: Music

Graduate College: University of Michigan, M.M.

Work Experience: Now in my fourth year at CollegeVine, I have helped dozens of students gain acceptance to their top-choice schools and have also advised and mentored thousands more through my livestreams. Apart from my work at CV, I am also a professional conductor and a multi-instrumentalist. I currently serve as the music director of the Apollo Ensemble of Boston, and I have led symphonic concerts and operatic productions throughout the United States.

My Admissions Story: Initially interested in pursuing a career as a performing cellist, I applied almost exclusively to music schools with dual and double degree options and ultimately enrolled in the Tufts University/New England Conservatory Dual Degree Program. Unhappy with the combined program and worried I'd never feel like I was fully a student at either school, I logged back into in October of my freshman year. I can't say I went about the transfer process in the smartest way (I only applied to two schools!), but Harvard miraculously accepted me (or 'excepted me' as I wrote in a celebratory Facebook post that day - no one ever let me live that one down), and the rest was history.

Audience questions

These are questions from the audience that we had time to answer during the live session. If you have any other questions, you can request an answer from Elias and other CollegeVine experts in an upcoming livestream or on the Q&A Forum anytime.
4:36@Applesauce:I've been really focused on getting into top colleges for a long time. I don't know if you remember my profile but you reviewed it during ur last profile review. Collegevine has really helped me, shout outs to all of you guys.
7:50@Applesauce:How long did it take you to find a good group of friends when you first got to college?
13:20@spacewinner:Is Harvard really hard like the rumors?
14:59@anonymous:(Not a really good question) Is it really that hard to get into Harvard? Between 1 to 10? I wish I could get into but Im not sure I can D:
24:23@Aahan:Who is eligible for scholarship in Harvard?
25:26@spacewinner:How can we access virtual tours and college virtual events?
26:40@spacewinner:I mean school-sanctioned. Sorry for not clarifying!
26:46@Applesauce:I know Harvard values leadership a lot, would you recommend any specific way of talking about leadership experience in the way that they value it most? Like specific lessons learned from leadership? Kind of a difficult question.
38:44@anonymous:do you know anything on tech and wether
38:52@anonymous:its a good school?
39:09@anonymous:I'm a bit confused. I have about 5 or 6 Safety schools per CollegeVine. But my chances for these safety schools are below 50% per Naviance. What do I do?
42:16@CMSH:Hey Elias! Can I enter my profile on Collegevine without listing all activities? I find the categorization for the activities on Collegevine pretty confusing!
43:24@spacewinner:For my long reach schools, my chances show around 10%. But my scores are 'excellent' and my extracurriculars are strong. What do I do? D:
44:10@Applesauce:The highlight of my extracurricular profile is a club I started and I have a good amount of impact stories I can share about this club. When writing my common app essay (and this goes for all types of activities that people will be writing about) should I try and limit how much I focus on the activity so I can give admissions officers a better look at other aspects of myself besides what I already have written in my activities section? Or does it not really matter if you go over your activities again in your essays?
45:57@Aahan:What you have to consider first while making the college list?
66:58@millyruiz:I’m not from the US and I’m not sure how to know if a school would be a “safety” for me because I don’t know if I’m compared to students from the US who have a very different application than mine.
68:35@Applesauce:How much can stellar letters of recommendation help your profile for getting into elite schools? I know they're "helpful" but are they more of something that's necessary just to get in or will it truly give you a boost over other top applicants?
70:05@anonymous:How can I have my profile to be reviewed? Can I request to get specific person to review?
71:08@spacewinner:are essays more important that extracurriculars at elite schools?
72:34@anonymous:Where can you find how much Greek Life plays into social opportunities (like you mentioned that it was very difficult to have a social life at MIT without being in a fraternity)?
73:22@CMSH:I’ve taken the most demanding courseload possible at my school but collegevine’s chancing doesn’t seem to have the ability for me to inform them of that while chancing a school? The site just seems to access my 5 APs as a low rigor courseload. Anything I can do to get a more accurate reading on my chances?
74:24@smontague98::Are early graduate students at a disadvantage when applying to schools lead and non-lead? I'm an early graduate student, completing high school with all credits in 3 years vs 4 years?
75:32@anonymous:Do we use weighted or unweighted GPA for the profile?
76:18@smontague98:I'm sorry I'm meant selective vs not as selective
76:45@Payita:Does it make any sense to put another major if it has less demand than the one you like, to increase chances of admission?
82:19@anonymous:Classes taken at community college and the AP classes at high school, which one college will give more points to you as a vigorous class?
82:59@anonymous:Does california state colleges look at 12th grade 1st semester for GPA calculation, if we want to improve GPA
83:40@spacewinner:Are IB or AP courses more valuable at elite schools?
84:02@anonymous:As a music major, what advice would you give for bringing out my love of music in my application even if I’m not actually applying to a music major (I’ve just done a lot of music so far)?
94:28@millyruiz:If you participate in a program or an exchange in another country, where should you put that in the application?
95:15@Evie:If you have been accepted at an instate private college with a full-ride, would it make sense to go to said school for pre-med even if it does not have your major of preference (neuroscience)?
96:50@JEM_25:Do yo have more livestreams from UPENN or Duke
103:10@CMSH:Wait are your school suggestions for Computer Science ?
104:29@spacewinner:So if I got into a good school (Top 20), should I go there even if there isn't a great job market?
105:20@CMSH:What are your feelings on Harvard for Comp Sci?
105:43@Payita:Should we look at the 4 year graduation rate at all when assessing schools?
106:16@millyruiz:Do you have any specific tips for international students?
107:28@smontague98:This is my first time ever coming to a Collegevine event. I found this because of the college fair. What are some of the other resources available and where can I find them?
109:28@spacewinner:Are there any good essay livestreams coming up?
110:45@Payita:what do you think about rankings? US News, Niche, Cappex, Forbes, QS? Do you recommend any?
111:14@anonymous:If I’m planning to go into the premed track, how would an elite school which is not particularly known for premed (e.g. Harvard) compare to a competitive but not top 20 school that is especially known for its premed (e.g. UNC Chapel Hill)?
112:12@CMSH:Should I be calling admissions officers ahead of submitting my application, and if so what kinds of things can I ask?
113:00@Payita:what about schools that have grade deflation? Like Wellesley?
114:33@anonymous:How would we know which schools do grade deflation?
114:51@smontague98:as someone who went to an ivy, do you think ivy league schools are overrated?
116:41@anonymous:I like to go to colleges in Boston. What other choices of less selective schools than Harvard in Business major should I apply?
118:42@CMSH:When is your next session? What is it on?
119:55@Payita:My sister goes to Wellesley


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