Watch the Matriculate x CollegeVine webinar to hear from Sarah (former Matriculate Advising Fellow and current Matriculate staff member), and two Matriculate High School Fellow Alumni – Marquez (Stanford University) and Allison (Cornell University) for tips on how to find the best college. Here are some key takeaways:


Start the video at 4:35 to learn more about finding a college that is a good fit for you.

There are thousands of colleges to choose from, so finding the right college can feel like a big task. At Matriculate, we recommend students determine the criteria on their wishlist before starting their search. For example, knowing how far away from home you want to be, what size campus you’re looking for, the clubs you want to join, or how much financial aid you’d need, can help you narrow your search.

Start with Fit – as you develop your list of fit criteria, mark each as a “non-negotiable” or “negotiable” (in other words, what is a “need” and what is a “want”.)

  • What is your Academic Fit? – To find your Academic Fit, think about the academic programs, class sizes, support services, and other opportunities that will allow you to be challenged and thrive in your field .. or, if you don’t know what you want to study, will allow you to explore different options before declaring a major. Do you want undergraduate research opportunities? Do you like small class sizes?
    • Pro-Tip: About 80% of students change their major at least once – don’t choose a school just because it has your major! Rather find schools that offer a more broad Academic Fit.
  • What is your Social Fit? – To find your Social Fit, consider the campus environment, culture, community, and extracurricular opportunities that fit your interests and will allow you to thrive. Do you want to be part of Greek Life? Do you want to play intramural sports?
  • What is your Financial Fit? This is probably the most straightforward – talk to your support system about what is affordable. The best way to assess financial fit is by using the Net Price Calculator for each college to determine an estimated cost of attendance. At Matriculate we recommend applying to schools that meet at least 80% of your demonstrated financial need.

You can find all of this data – including Financial Need Met, and Academic and Social Fit criteria – on college search tools like BigFuture College Search.


Start the video at 14:20 to learn more about college search tools and free campus visit opportunities that will help with your college search.

  • Fly-in Visits (15:20) – These are completely free college visit opportunities hosted by colleges in the fall of your senior year – colleges fly students in to stay at their campuses allowing students who might not get a chance to visit otherwise to get a feel for the college and campus. Use these lists from CollegeVine and Appily to find opportunities.
  • Virtual College Tours (20:10) – These tours are an easy way to check out a campus from your computer. You can explore the dorms and dining halls, and spend time envisioning yourself on the campus. You can find these visits on the college websites or use YouVisit.
    College Search Tools – Are you saying, “This is great, but help me find a college!” If so, you’re in luck – use this list of tools to make the process easy:
    • Big Future College Search – find schools that meet your “fit” criteria
    • Appily – find new colleges and scholarships
    • Colleges That Change Lives – find schools that are especially committed to providing students with a supportive campus community
    • I’m First – find schools that are especially committed to the success of first-gen students
    • QuestBridge Partner Schools – find schools that are partnered with the QuestBridge scholarship (most of which provide great resources and strong financial aid)


Start the video at 3:04 to learn more about building a balanced college list to increase your chances of having more options when it’s time to make your decision.

Tip 1: Apply to at least 8-10 schools.

No one can guarantee you will be admitted to any particular school. Applying to 8-10 schools helps to increase your chances of being admitted to more than one college and have options, even if you get a few rejections (and almost all students get some rejections—it’s a normal part of the process).

You are likely still exploring and discovering what you want or need from a college, and this list of criteria may evolve until Decision Day on May 1. Applying to multiple schools allows you to have options to choose your best social, academic, and financial fit.

Tip 2: Apply to a balance of Safety, Target, and Reach schools.

To balance your list, and increase your chances of admission, Matriculate recommends applying to at least 2 Safety, 2 Target, and 2 Reach schools.

  • Safety Schools – Admit more than 50% of the applicant pool (i.e. Acceptance Rate of 50% or higher). The accepted average GPA and ACT/SAT are less than your GPA and test scores.
  • Target Schools – Admit between 25-49% of the applicant pool (i.e. Acceptance Rate of 25-49%). The accepted average GPA and ACT/SAT are in the range of your GPA and test scores.
  • Reach Schools – Admit less than 25% of the applicant pool (i.e. Acceptance Rate of less than 25%). The accepted average GPA and ACT/SAT are in range or higher than your GPA and test scores.

You can find all of this data – including Acceptance Rate, and the ranges of average GPA, SAT Scores, and ACT Scores – on college search tools like BigFuture College Search – just visit the page for a specific school and click the “Admissions” tab.



If you’re a high school junior and need free college application help – the Matriculate Class of 2025 Application is open until the end of August 2024. Students are accepted on a rolling basis – so if you apply today, you could be matched with your advisor within two weeks!

If you’re a younger student and need free college application help – join our mailing list and be the first to get access to the application for your class.


Allison Dew

Allison is a Matriculate High School Fellow (Class of 2023) from Central Wisconsin – currently attending Cornell’s College of Engineering and hopes to pursue a career in Sustainability/ClimateTech. In her off-time enjoys hobbies such as painting, baking, and crocheting.

Marquez Thompson

Marquez is a Matriculate High School Fellow (Class of 2023) from Chattanooga, Tennessee – currently attending Stanford University. Maurquez plans to major in Philosophy with a minor in public policy. He aspires to become a public-interest attorney and a federal judge. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, eating spicy food, reading, watching movies, and hanging out with friends and family.

Sarah Oppenheim

Sarah is from Bay, Arkansas and is the High School Fellow Recruitment Associate at Matriculate. Prior to this role, she was an Advising Fellow with Matriculate and graduated from Columbia University in 2021. In her free time, she loves kayaking, hiking, and trying new restaurants.