Beginning the exciting yet frightful college search can be a daunting task. I started my own search for the perfect university this year and I’m finally deciding on my favorites. But when I first sat down to undertake the task, I didn’t have a clue where to begin! However, throughout the year I found that remaining calm and remembering what’s important to me made the intimidating college search seem a bit less formidable. So take a deep breath and follow these steps that I found to be most helpful!
1. Find a Mentor
The most important aspect of the college search that I can’t stress enough is finding a mentor that really cares about you. Whether it is a parent, a teacher, a friend, or a guidance counselor, a mentor will make all the difference and help you to not feel like you’re alone in your journey. You want to make sure that they’ve been through the college search themselves and that they are able to provide you with knowledgeable insight into the real world. I want to major in Astronomy when I go to college so naturally I asked my astronomy professor for any assistance that he could offer. And he was more than willing to help! He helped keep me on track during the year and since I had him as a teacher, it was easy to meet up and discuss my next steps.
2. Deciding Your Major
If you’re one of the many high school students having a panic attack because you don’t know exactly what you want to major in, REMAIN CALM. First of all, you are not alone and you have to remember that. This is big decision and no one should expect you to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. Don’t feel like you have to pick a major just for the sake of picking a major; you have time to decide. If you want to get an idea, try to make a list of possible interests you have that you would consider majoring in. Getting your interests down on paper will help you to see potential for a passion. Plus, you always have the option of switching majors when you’re actually in college. Once you have a taste of what college is like, it will be much easier to decide what you really want to do in life.
3. Online College Match
If you have some idea of what kind of college you want to go to, it might be a good idea to check out some online college matches. There are tons of helpful websites that will have you list out your personal expectations of your perfect college. It will help you narrow down your options based on your location, interests, school size, preferable environment, and so much more. This is a great beginning step because it forces you to decide upon the type of school you want to go to but not necessarily the exact school.
4. Get Organized!
This is another step that I can’t stress enough. Getting organized is vital in any major decision but especially in this one. You’re going to be spending at least a few years learning in the same environment so you need to take the college search seriously by getting organized. My teacher suggested that I make an Excel spreadsheet containing my top colleges and their differing qualities. Not only will this help you remain focused, but it will help you keep all of your information in one place. If you’re less inclined to store info online, I would suggest having a folder containing everything you need and all of your research in one space.
5. Pro-Con Lists
If you find yourself stuck between a few schools that all seem perfect, I would suggest creating some pro-con lists for each individual school. Creating lists will help you compare the most important aspects of each school and hopefully allow you to narrow down your list a bit more. Maybe every school you look at will have some cons but you’ll have to decide which school has more pros that will outweigh its downfalls. The perfect school for you is out there, you just need to be willing to put the work in to get there.
6. Top 5
After you’ve made your lists and completed your searches, I would suggest having a solid top five schools that you would consider going to. Have your list consist of your “dream schools” and also some fallback schools just in case. Always reach for your dream schools but you also have to be realistic. If cost, distance, or acceptance becomes an issue, you will have other schools that you can still look into.
7. College Visits
Going to visit colleges expresses your interest in that college to admission officers and also helps you get a real-life vision of the school. Many times colleges will offer personal tours of the entire campus and allow you to view dorms, classrooms, and entertainment areas. Never pass up the opportunity to visit a school that you are seriously considering attending. Pictures online can help but they never do a school justice.
8. Remember Costs
What’s the very first question that pops into your mind when you first look into a college? If you’re like me then the first thing you thought of was, “how much does it cost?” Although money should never stand in the way of you and your dreams, if we’re being realistic you have to consider costs. Tuition is most important, however you also have to factor in the cost of living, room and board, meal plans, transportation, books…the list goes on and on. I know this sounds terrifying but remember that there are many ways to reduce the cost of attendance. First, you have to look into scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships for a large range of topics, including merit-based, or special qualities. You don’t want to be swimming in loan debt after you graduate college so apply to as many scholarships as possible. After scholarships, you have the options of grants and loans that will help you reduce costs. Cost is definitely an important part of the college search but don’t spend all of your time worrying about this. You’ll get through it one way or another, I promise.
Searching for the perfect college that suits all of your needs is one of the hardest tasks for teens today. Hopefully you gained some new insight into the ways of college searching with some of these tips. Good luck and remember that you're never alone! Do you have any helpful steps or tips to follow that you learned during your own college search?