College list advice?

As a junior, I’m starting to get pretty stressed about the college search process. I have a general sense of what I’m looking for but I don’t have any colleges that I’d call my “dream” school.

I want to go to a large college. My high school is a big public one and nothing sounds worse to me than going to a college that’s smaller than my high school, or a college that’s out in the middle of nowhere. It would be really nice to go to college in CA, FL, or similar warm states, but really location doesn’t matter much to me. I would be interested in a college with Greek life, but it’s not the most important thing to me either. I also don’t want a super heavy workload/stressful environment, but I do want some level of academic prestige, if that makes sense. I’m considering becoming a teacher, so I’m trying to only look at schools where an education major is possible.

I’m a decent student.
3.6 GPA (3.2 freshman year to 4.0 this year and 4.3 weighted)
30 ACT
Mostly AP and honors classes

I’m looking at colleges like UIUC, Penn State, U of Georgia, UW Madison, and U of Alabama as my top options. I guess what these all share in common is that they’re all large, public, state schools, right? So is that the general direction I should be going in?

I would like more suggestions for safeties and reaches, if anyone can tell me any. Since I still have the summer to visit schools and refine my list before I actually start applying, I want to find as many good options as I can.

Can anyone help me add to my list?


Ohio State, Bowling Green, U of Indiana, Texas A&M, …Check this out too, hopefully it can help you add to your list.


You asked, “They’re [the colleges you listed] all large public state schools, right? So is this that the general direction I should be going?” I’m not sure what you are asking, but I’ll make some general comments.

Is cost going to be an issue? You might need to ask your parents/guardians about this. Private schools cost the same no matter what state a student hails from, but public universities are significantly more expensive for out of state students. If cost is no issue, then, sure, you have a lot of large public universities to choose from. There are some larger private universities, too.

Your current list includes all flagships, which is fine, since you do prefer a school with name recognition/prestige. Are you a sports fan? I ask because all of the schools that you list are either Big Ten schools or SEC schools. As far as I know, all of the public flagships will have Greek life. Education majors will be available at quite literally just about every four-year college and university in the country

For now, find out what your family can afford. Grab a reliable college guide that focuses on the top 10-15% of colleges; these more “selective” guides have in-depth write-ups for all of the colleges featured. The Fiske Guide to Colleges is the one most used and recommended by high school guidance counselors and private admissions counselors. But there are others. The Insider’s Guide to Colleges. The Princeton Review’s Best 382 Colleges.

Finally, not only are public universities more expensive for OOS students (though some have agreements with neighboring states that lower the OOS tuition cost; however, they are usually not the flagships), but they often do not have as much merit aid (scholarships) to hand out. For top students, such as those that are aiming for elite schools, there are some very nice scholarships. The U of Alabama offers some very competitive full-ride awards. You can see what scholarships exist by visiting the school’s website or simply Googling the school’s name plus the word “scholarships.” There are merit awards for very good students, and these might sometimes eliminate or significantly lower the OOS tuition, but the prices for colleges today are nonetheless very expensive, even at in-state rates. The U of Alabama does actively seek OOS students, aiming for a 50/50 balance of in-state and OOS students, so perhaps this school you should research more.

Cost won’t be an issue.
I’m not a huge sports fan but I like them and I’d definitely rather go to a school with good sports teams than one without any.

The University of Central Florida may be just what you are seeking. Plus, you should get a scholarship.

Are you looking for more public or Private? Because if it’s private then I suggest University of Miami or Boston University or Syracuse University. Public perhaps UF or UCF or Ohio State.

I don’t have a preference between public or private.

Make sure your parents run the net price calculator on each school website. Sometimes students are surprised by what their parents won’t (or can’t) pay for.

@extra21 ,

Lots of posters will start listing schools, but really there are too many to mention. You’re in pretty good shape. With your current stats, you’ll be competitive for many large public flagships/private universities. The toughies among the flagships include Michigan, UC Berkeley, UCLA, U of VA, UNC Chapel Hill, U of FL, UT Austin. So, yeah, nearly all of those will be out of reach.

Find a book or find a similar guide online. Start identifying the schools where your stats are average, above average, or well above average for the typical admitted student. For a 3.6 kid with a 30 ACT, there will be a lot of good schools in play.

Penn State is literally located in the middle of no where. Great school, but probably the most isolated state flagship there is.

Any other Big Ten university, but the warmth thing rules those out. Florida public universities are great. Both Carolina’s flagships are good. UT? Alabama?

I’m not exactly sure what “big ten” and “flagship” mean but I like the suggestions of UCF and Alabama.

Big Ten is the best (my opinion) college athletic conference made up of highly respected public universities (except Northwestern University which is private) located from the upper east coast (Rutgers, University of Maryland) across to the central US (University of Nebraska is the farthest west). But all of the schools are exceptionally well respected academically.

Flagship is the most prominent public university in a state, most of the members of the Big Ten are the states “flagship” university, but there are smaller public schools in the state. Some states don’t have a one, but a couple (Michigan has both Michagan and Michigan St.; Indiana has both Indiana and Purdue). But other non Big Ten universities are also state flagships, like Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina…) Generally, it is the public university that the state allocates the most budget towards.

Hope that helps.

That helps a lot, thanks!

I’m starting at UCF in the fall as an elementary education major and fell in love after their Knight for a day. I would suggest going to their open house so you could go to the education complex and see all they have to offer in their education programs


Not to rain on the parade. But you have a lot of options but some of the suggestions are going to be nearly impossible unless you live in the state vs out of state (OOS)- as you will see it referenced here.
Also they wouldn’t meet your excellent description of what you want. Which is really refreshing. Good reputation but not known to be overly rigorous . Not on your list should be UNC or William and Mary. UF, UT UVA UCLA Cal Berkeley UCSD U Washington UIUC
UConn or Penn State are maybes. Everything else in terms of flagship schools are in the conversation with an excellent application and essay/Recs/ecs.

Privates like BU mentioned don’t fit your description (no football team and intense academics). Look at some ranking lists. They don’t mean anything really but will give you a sense of overall difficulty to get in.

Good luck. I would want to go to the same schools you would too!

Thanks! I’m only in state for one of the schools that you listed, UIUC.

Texas is plenty warm enough, especially in the summer. Texas A&M is a match for your stats. Also consider Univ of Houston and Texas Tech as a match/safety. You also have a good shot at UT-Austin. Alabama and Auburn might offer an in-state tuition waiver with your stats. You definitely have the stats for them. Safety schools in Texas could be UT-Dallas, UT-Arlington, UTSA, and Texas State. Also, if your parents can afford it, you’re a match for Baylor, TCU, and SMU.