Keeping it Reel

4 Ways to Narrow Down Your College List

When you are first starting your college search, it can be incredibly hard to focus on any one thing, which makes narrowing down your options a difficult task. Is the school known to graduate top students? What degree programs do they offer? What is the campus like? Do they have good athletic programs? Faced with all of these questions, how are you even supposed to create a list of colleges to apply to?

Well, it won’t be easy, but there are a few simple ways you can narrow down your options. Take a look below.



1. Needs, Wants, and Likes

Realizing what is a need, what is a want, and what is a “like,” is a great way to shrink your college list. Let’s look at the following list of college requirements as an example.


  • Film Program
  • Soccer Team
  • School Newspaper
  • Small School
  • Beautiful Campus
  • Professional Equipment

Now, let’s break this list up into Needs, Wants, Likes

You plan on studying Film in college, so you NEED the school you go to to have an excellent Film Program. You won’t get the high-quality education you’re looking for if you aren’t working with professional equipment, so you also NEED the school to have professional-grade equipment available for student use.

You played soccer in high school and have received small scholarship offers from a couple of colleges, so you WANT the school you go to to have a soccer team. You aren’t trying to go pro, however, so it isn’t entirely necessary. Your end goal is to be a screenwriter/director, so you WANT the college to have a school newspaper (so you can work on your skills outside of the classroom), but you don’t need it to.

Lastly, you’d LIKE the college you go to to be small because you think you may do better in a more personal environment. And you’d LIKE for the campus to be beautiful because, well, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on it.

Once you organize your college requirements in this fashion, you will be able to focus on the things that are most important to you. Keep in mind that something might be a “need” for you that is only a “want” or “like” for someone else. Also, many schools may not have certain extracurricular activities you are looking for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start a club or student organization yourself.


2. Focus on One Question at a Time.

Instead of trying to compare multiple schools across multiple areas, focus on one thing at a time. The first question you should ask about each school you are interested in is: “do they have a program that matches my interests.” If you want to be an actor, but a school you are interested in doesn’t have a film or musical theater program, you can probably cross that school off your list of potential colleges. From there, you can move onto other questions you may have like

  • “Do they offer the specific major I am looking for?”
  • “What is the graduation rate for this college and the program I am interested in?”
  • “Do they have a good internship program?”


3. Talk to Your Parents About Budget

It isn’t the most fun thing to confront, but price is definitely a huge factor in the college decision. If you haven’t talked to your parents about your college budget yet, ask them if they will be able to contribute to your tuition. It is also a good idea to see what kind of financial aid and federal grants you qualify for.

Once you do these things, set a price range for yourself and stick to it. Doing this will help you eliminate colleges while coming up with a financial plan.

Note: When looking into a college’s tuition, pay attention to additional fees as well as standard scholarships. Some schools may appear more or less expensive than they actually are.

4. Throw Names Out the Window

It can be easy to get caught up in the hype of one school or another. Big names can be a big draw; but just because you grew up watching a school’s football team play on t.v. that doesn’t mean the school is right for you. Try to eliminate any biasis you may have towards specific schools and focus on solid information. You might even want to try covering up the names of colleges as you review information you have gathered. You may realize that the name of a school was all you were attracted to.

There are thousands of colleges to choose from; deciding where you want to apply isn’t easy. But if you follow these tips, you should be on your way to creating the perfect list of schools. Remember, your decision isn’t final. While it is nice to get it right the first time, you always have the option of switching schools and changing your path.

Has Columbia College Hollywood made your list? Download out Application checklist below to see what you need to do to apply with us!

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This blog is a collaborative effort by CCH staff and administration who want to share their knowledge with the film school community and prospective students.

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