1. Personal inventory, including review of your personal and academic strengths, goals, plans, and interests. The questions here cover your reasons for going to college and focus on helping you to answer "Who am I?"
2. College preferences, developed from the personal inventory and designed to answer the question "What am I looking for in a college?" The first step really must be completed before these preferred college characteristics can be developed.
3. Preliminary group of colleges, based on the college preferences, based in turn on the personal inventory. The colleges in this group should represent the potential for a good "fit" or match" for you and may number as many as twenty or thirty colleges very early in the process.
Students and parents often begin the college admissions process by reviewing the names of colleges they know, like, or support, and thus try to develop a preliminary group of colleges without working through the first two steps. The first two steps are very important, for you really can’t make good decisions about your college plans without first taking stock of yourself through a personal inventory, and looking at specific colleges won’t make much sense unless you know what you are looking for, and can ask "How closely will this college meet my preferences?"