A quality college list spreadsheet is imperative for staying organized to get into your dream college. 

To make the best decisions, you need data.

Then you must collect, track and reference that data without having to remember it all (your brain has plenty to do in high school – let’s ease this particular burden!).

This article will cover:

  • What you need for getting and staying organized
  • What to do with your college list spreadsheet
  • Why you need a college list spreadsheet to help you get into college
  • The best tips to remember

If this feels overwhelming, please know you don’t have to go through the college admissions process alone. 

March Consulting Team can simplify the process and ensure your money goes further with a solid plan for getting into college and paying reasonable tuition. If you want to skip straight to getting started with our professional college application tools, don’t hesitate. We can help with whatever you need. The sooner we get started the easier it will be for you.

We also have other articles to inform you about the latest, most important college admissions details.

Otherwise, keep reading to learn how to make a college list spreadsheet to stay organized and get into college.

What You Need To Make A Helpful College List Spreadsheet

Luckily, gone are the days when handwritten spreadsheets were the only option.

Now you can personalize and adjust online, digital spreadsheets as your goals become clearer or change entirely. 

Take charge of this process and track your options with less stress and less paper waste..

Here’s how:

  1. Choose a platform
  2. Get a filing system
  3. Set up an email system

Choose The Best Platform For Your College List Spreadsheet

You can either build a spreadsheet from scratch or purchase/sign-up for preexisting college search software designed for this purpose.

As with any college admissions tool, the best option is whichever one feels most comfortable to you.

Building A College List Spreadsheet From Scratch

The nice thing about building your own spreadsheet is lots of flexibility with the layout.

You don’t have to be a designer or a tech-wiz to create a simple, easy-to-read spreadsheet using:

  • Google sheets 
  • Excel
  • Airtable 
  • Zoho sheets, etc.

There are many others (including good free options). 

If there is software you prefer but don’t have access to, contact your school counselor to see if they can provide you with a subscription (they’re awesome resources to help you get into a great college).

Choosing College Search Software

Some are free, some are focused on specific institutions, some are more robust than others.

The reality is, all have amazing potential – but remember that none can determine which school is going to be perfect for you. 

Only you have that ability.

So don’t overthink it.

The most important step in your college search process is being honest with yourself about what you want out of life so you can determine what you need out of college.

Then you can tailor your tools around those priorities to efficiently focus on what is essential to you. 

Super important. 

Tools are only useful if they simplify the process rather than adding more confusion.

They only help if they make sense to your brain and keep your gathered information nicely organized.

Plus, there’s a huge difference between having a tool and using it to your greatest advantage. Sometimes the biggest factor isn’t what platform you use, but having an expert private college counselor to unpack the information and find pathways your family hadn’t considered.

Here are some of the specific platforms:

Yep. There are lots of options. 

Some of which are good.

To be honest, though, they aren’t what we use. 

In our many years of helping thousands of students get into great schools (with a 100% success rate) we’ve learned that our favorite and most fruitful aid in searching out colleges and college information is CounselMore, along with our own tables and spreadsheets. 

If you’d like access to these specific resources, sign-up for a College Comparison Data Deep Dive session for help with more than just building your spreadsheet. We’ll help with interpreting and applying the information to narrow down a solid college list you can apply to. Combine that with the College Aid Pro software we use and you’ll have invaluable resources for finding your best-fit schools AND making sure tuition is easily covered.



Keep Schools’ Marketing Materials Together

You’ll probably receive tons of flyers, postcards, and brochures about potential schools. 

It’s a good idea to keep everything until this process is over. 

If you’ve already thrown some out, don’t fret. Just keep them going forward. 

You never know what this journey will bring for you and your family. 

You never know what information might make you change your mind. 

Keep a dedicated, alphabetized accordion folder or file drawer of all correspondence you receive. Give each school a folder for all materials, including notes you’ve taken.

Set Up An Email System

Create a folder, smart folder, flag, or mailbox to denote and separate any college admissions-related emails you send or receive.

Inboxes can get bombarded.

Don’t let something useful get buried.

Again, even if you’re not sure about a school, still track them in case something new comes up or you change your mind.

Plus, some colleges track demonstrated interest – if that includes one of the schools on your wishlist, they will know who opens and clicks through their emails. 

Keeping those emails may do more than help you make decisions. It could help you get into your targeted college.

What To Do With Your College List Spreadsheet

No matter which spreadsheet platform you chose, clearly decide what criteria you are searching for to organize your columns and headers on your college list spreadsheet.

Ultimately, you want as much information as possible, then you can whittle it down to a final, compact list of colleges you want to apply to.

(We suggest 8-12; you can read more in this article about making your college list if you’re interested.)

What Criteria Should Be On Your College List Spreadsheet

What are you looking for in a school?

Get advice from respected mentors on this one. See what they believe is essential for your ability to thrive in a learning environment.

And permit yourself to ignore stats that aren’t as helpful.

For example, many people – even experts – include college rankings and acceptance rates on their spreadsheets. 

While it’s not inherently bad to be aware of others’ opinions or how competitive a school is, those shouldn’t be deciding factors for attendance. That info is only useful to the school itself and doesn’t tell you anything about whether you’ll be happy or learn well there. So perhaps you don’t need them on your spreadsheet. 

On the other hand, it’s incredibly useful to include:

  • Important dates and deadlines
  • Application requirements
  • Specific stuff that matters to you
    • The culture of the school 
    • The graduation rate
    • How much financial aid they offer
    • Activities you want to participate in
    • What daily life is like, etc.
  • Space for notes

For more ideas, check out these 7 things to consider when comparing colleges.

How To Fill-Out And Maintain Your College List Spreadsheet

There are many ways to research colleges:

  • Research the school’s website
  • Go to college fairs
  • Ask trusted friends and family for suggestions
  • Pick up a college search book from the library
  • Get in touch with one of our expert college counselors

If you already have colleges on your list and you’re looking for specific information about them, it’s best to google that school’s “common data set.” This will give you all the stats straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

Whether you have no clue where to begin or you’re deep in the process but need more tips and ideas, you might benefit from this article on how to start looking for colleges.

Why You Need A College List Spreadsheet To Help You Get Into College

For those who are skeptical about needing a spreadsheet, consider…

How Long Does It Take To Get Accepted Into College?

It’s smart to consider college and career plans as a high school freshman or sophomore, but most application work happens in earnest during your junior year with finishing touches applied in your senior year. 

All in all, perhaps 125+ hours of work. 

Then it takes 4-6 weeks for colleges to review your application and respond.

It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of hard waiting!

Don’t get to the end and wonder if you missed something. 

Have everything you need at your fingertips.

Be able to leverage your college list spreadsheet into a formidable college application list and catapult yourself to the future of your dreams.

College List Spreadsheet Tips 

Do your best to stay organized and remember:

  • Regularly save a backup of your college list spreadsheet.

  • Be flexible. Expect the unexpected.

  • Ask for help when you need it – from your family, your high school, or March Consulting.

If you want to find the hidden gems that few people have heard of when it comes to searching for perfect-fit colleges, you can’t do better than March Consulting’s College Comparison Data Dive

Let us know (by emailing us here) if you want in on our must-have service or if there is anything else we can do to help you with the college admissions process.