A great college is…

If you’re a senior compiling your college list, focus on three things that make a college a great choice for you.

1. One where you can get in.
I’m not suggesting that any school that wouldn’t admit you simply isn’t a good choice. But much as a romantic interest isn’t your soul mate if the interest isn’t returned, a college isn’t a truly great choice unless it’s one that admits you. Make sure the bulk of your list is comprised of schools that will say yes.

2. One where you can be happy and successful.
I know this means looking into the future. But if you approach your college selection process with this metric in mind, you’ll move past things like rankings, what your friends tell you, and other factors that don’t actually measure the quality of a college for you.

3. One that you can afford.
You don’t know for sure whether or not you can afford a college until your financial aid package arrives. But as I’ve written before, affordability is part of fit. And a strong argument can be made that a college isn’t a great college for you if you end up taking on debt that will take you 30 years to pay off after you graduate.

Put another way, if you can’t get in, if you won’t be happy and successful once you’re there, and/or if you can’t pay for it, it’s not a great college. It might still earn a place on your list. But approaching your college search with these three elements in mind will ensure that you end up with plenty of great college options from which to choose.