As juniors begin to think about college, the first challenge they are likely to face is finding their best college match. However, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Here are 5 easy steps to finding your college match:
- Visit a local college. Visiting a local college – even if you don’t plan to apply there – can give you valuable information about the types of programs colleges have to offer, their facilities, and what college classes are like. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with colleges of various sizes, visiting them can really help you get a sense of what size student body is the best fit for you. There’s nothing like taking a tour and sitting in on an information session to help you begin deciding what you would like in a college.
- Make a list of your “non-negotiables”. These are the things that you have determined that a school absolutely must have in order for you to be successful and happy there. These should include things such as major(s) you are interested in, availability of learning support services, special programs important to you (i.e. music, athletics, debate, etc.), availability of internships, type of learning environment (i.e. lecture or discussion) to name but a few. Having a list of 4-5 non-negotiables will help you keep things in perspective while narrowing your search for that perfect college match.
- Do a financial and academic reality check. Talk to your parents about how you will be paying for college. That information can help you decide which schools may be your best college match financially. Just keep in mind that even though private schools are more expensive, they could offer you enough financial aid to make them affordable. It’s also important to consider your chances for admission based on your academic profile. While it’s fine to apply to 1 or 2 “dream schools”, it’s essential to also apply to schools where you have a reasonable chance for admission. If you’re not sure about this, your college counselor should be able to help you.
- Keep an open mind. Students often limit themselves by only considering schools they are familiar with. It’s important to be open to the possibility that, even if you’ve never heard of it before, a college that offers all your “non-negotiables” could end up being the perfect college match you’d been hoping for. So, be sure to talk to your college counselor or an independent counselor about any schools you might not have considered.
- Do the research and get connected. Start your search with a good college search engine, but don’t stop there. Be sure to check out the schools’ websites and Facebook pages, as well as their YouTube channels. While you’re at it, swing by youniversitytv.com to see if there is a video for the school there. Don’t forget to see if any of the schools will be at your local college fair or have reps coming to your high school. Once you’re satisfied with your list, be sure to get on their mailing lists so they can get to know you, too.