Beginning the college search and selection process early in high school at a gradual pace provides students with much more time to gather data and ultimately make the most informed decision.
How do you best organize your college search?
What are the most vital steps in the process?
What are the most important considerations?
One key factor is to always remember to treat your search for the perfect college like a marathon and not a sprint.
1. Organizing Your Efforts
To make it much more manageable, divide your college search and selection process into three separate parts:
- Compile your original list of colleges that interest you based on specific criteria (size, location, etc.). This list may contain between 20 and 30 colleges, maybe more.
- Narrow your list of possible colleges to between 8 and 10 by doing further research into the original list of institutions you selected.
- Finally, reduce your list to 6 finalists. From this list of 6 you will be able to do further research by visiting the college’s campuses, etc. to determine which is the most appealing to you. You will then be able to arrange your six finalists into your top four choices, a long shot selection, and a safety valve school.
Start early, pace yourself, but don’t rush yourself. The earlier you get started and the more time you have to research the college’s information, the more informed decision you will be able to make.
2. Beginning Your Search
Refer to the list below of basic information that will give you an idea of some of the parameters to consider when beginning your college search process:
- Enrollment size
- Type of institution
- College rankings
- SAT / ACT average scores for admitted students
- College setting
- Geographic location
- Majors offered and courses available
- Campus / university life
You should review and familiarize yourself with all of these in order to get a feel for what type of institution best suits your needs and educational goals.
3. Narrowing Your Initial List
After your original list is compiled, here are some considerations to help you narrow your options:
- On campus housing
- Specialized schools
- Minimum / maximum enrollment
- Type of enrolled students
- Courses taught by professors / grad students
- Student / teacher interaction
- Overall cultural dynamic of the school
- Resources and technology available
- On campus / off campus activities
In addition to your personal research, you may also wish to speak with your high school counselor, family, and past graduates to obtain any insider details available. This additional research will certainly take time; but, it will be time well spent. The college you attend will play such a major role in forming your future – big decisions require careful consideration.
4. Important Considerations
While on the surface picking the best school for you, jumping through all the hoops, going off to college, studying, graduating with your Bachelor’s degree in 4 years, and starting your career seems to be the straight-forward objective. Unfortunately, less than 60% of those students who start down this path actually obtain their Bachelor’s degree in less than 6 years.
Consider the following when narrowing your list of possible colleges to help put yourself above those averages:
- Graduation rate
- Don’t be overly concerned with the cost of attendance
- Look past the football team and reputations
- Although you need a safety school, set your goals high
- Spend time looking for similar schools
- The other students – lifetime relationships in many cases
Careful consideration while in high school can have a huge impact on what your education ultimately costs, how soon you are able to graduate, and the foundation of personal and business relationships throughout your lifetime.