Where should students begin with the college search?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

Where should students begin with the college search?

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

Where should students begin with the college search?

Visiting different kinds of colleges, even just drive throughs: small/large; public/private; urban/rural. Read guide books. Talk to graduates.

Philip Ballinger
Director of Admissions & Assistant VP of Enrollment University of Washington

Where should students begin with the college search?

Inside! Start with your own imagination and expectations. Imagine yourself as a college student. How are you learning and studying? What are you doing? What is it like around you? What are the other students like? How do you want to change in college? What will help you do that? Try to make your perhaps blurry expectations about college come a bit more into focus -- then start 'searching' for the many schools that match well with what you have discovered.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Where should students begin with the college search?

Beginning a college search can appear to be overwhelming! There is just so much information out there. If you check on the PSAT/SAT “Yes” to I would like to receive information on colleges, then The College Board has your permission to sell your name and contact info to hundreds of schools. So, it should not be much of a surprise that your mailbox will soon not be big enough to contain all those very glossy brochures and viewbooks, all having incredibly attractive students on the cover and the sun is always shining!! Clearly what the schools will be sending you is beautifully written and photographed propaganda- a great sales pitch, but not the best place to begin your journey. Where you need to begin, and this is more difficult than skimming thru guidebooks or websites is to begin asking yourself the “tough” questions. This requires some deep reflection. “What would it take to make me happy”? ‘Would I prefer a large urban school with lots of energy and opportunities or a smaller private school, perhaps in rural location, which might have a stronger sense of campus community and where I could ski?” “Do I know what I want to study?” ‘How far from home would I feel comfortable going?” “Am I looking for schools with a strong sports culture and Greek life or do I prefer a campus whose culture is more focused on the Arts?” Is Religion a factor? Weather? Clearly you need to begin by coming up, at least initially, with a profile of the type of environment that would make you the happiest. Then as you continue your research you need to be honest with yourself as to where your academic profile (grades and test scores) fits with the schools that you would want to attend- that is where you then reach for the guidebooks and websites!

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Starting the Search Strategy: College Template Tour

Typically, the college search and application process begins in earnest during a student’s junior year. To begin the college process, try a “template trip.” Template trips offer students the opportunity to try out different college sizes (large, small), types (research, liberal arts), and settings (suburban, urban) in one trip. Some families may create a template trip in their home state, city, or region to minimize travel expenses. While other families may allow the student to choose the destination for a long-weekend trip and explore a new city’s neighborhoods via college campuses. Broadening the search process to ‘template’ schools enables students to focus on appealing attributes of a college rather than on specific institutions. As you plan your trip, make sure to vary the selectivity of your template trip as much as possible. Exposing a student to MIT, Harvard, and Wellesley presents diversity in many respects, but in over-emphasizing the highly selective nature of college admission many high school students will be intimidated rather than inspired.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

Why wait until high school? Start "college going thinking" sooner

Parents set the tone for their children’s academic success. Making education a priority for your children instills a lust for learning that stays with them throughout their lives. Many people mistakenly believe that education doesn’t really begin until high school. It seems this new phenomenon has taken hold as a result of the competition gain admission to college. However, parents and students would do themselves a huge favor to keep in mind that the earlier one fosters an appreciation for education, the more likely they will achieve academically. What are some ways to bolster interest among students? 1) Consider summer enrichment programs in an area of the student’s passion, such as sports, music or language. Whatever the choice, it’s important that students explore various areas of interest to foster the development of passion. 2) Talk with the counselor at your child’s school and forge an open relationship that enables the counselor to get to know your child and make the most of middle school. 3) Encourage children to learn a foreign language. Not only will this prepare them for a career in an increasingly global economy, but also exposes them to a new culture which can enrich their overall learning experience. 4) Consistently meet with your child’s teachers regarding her performance. Give feedback to your child about these meetings and encourage your child to meet with the teacher’s as well. This experience shows “tweens” how a simple conversation can change not only the teacher’s view of the student, but also the student’s perspective on her performance 5) Discuss your child’s academic expectations with him in a meaningful way. Engage your child when he asks questions or seeks more information about a topic. Mentoring your child in this manner encourages him to continue similar intellectual exploration throughout his life. 6) Suggest volunteer experiences that will help your child expand her skills and learn about potential careers. Any of these steps will lead your child down the path of self-discovery and meaningful education. Send the right message early: education is not about getting into college, education is about learning from new experiences and thinking critically about the world.

Maura Kastberg
Executive Director of Student Services RSC

Finding colleges that suit your needs

Gather information about the colleges you're interested in. Talk with your friends, family, counselor, teachers and the college itself. Learn what the college is really like. It takes time, effort, a little money and a good deal of research, but every contact moves you closer to a better decision. Tour nearby colleges either alone or with friends. No interview or guided tour just spend time on various campuses. Get a feel for the kind of place you like. The right college should provide enough "match" to be comfortable, with enough "mix" to expand your horizons. To grasp what this means, compare your present like and education with what you are ready to do next.

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

Get on campus

The best way to begin a college search is by taking a tour of multiple schools that represent a wide cross section. A group tour is a great place to begin your college search. When I take students on a tour they follow a curriculum that combines the elements of fit with experiential learning. Students who visit a variety of schools will be able to work with their college counselors to build a list of schools. Families may choose to accompany their students on select campus visits after the student has determined which schools will be the best possible match.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

Start Here

Students should begin by looking within. The sage advice: "Know Thyself" (in the Greek gnothi seauton) is the applicant's most powerful currency in the college process. You can think about fit attributes all day long, but if a student has no idea whom he or she is, what are his or her values, strengths and passions, the goal of finding the best match is vacuous. In order to differentiate oneself from the sea of other applicants, self-knowledge is critical.

Rebecca Grappo
Founder and president RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC

Is There a College for D Students?

A colleague asked me that question this morning. Seems the young man she is working with is “not working up to his potential”. I see this so often that I am dropping everything to write about this very important topic.

I work with all kinds of kids, from the superstars going to top tier colleges to kids who are barely in line to graduate.

And guess what. I love them all.

Each and every one of these kids has gifts to share – if we don’t pay attention, then we are in danger of losing the kid as well as all that he/she can give to the world.

When I get a student like this, the first thing I want to know is why….why are they D students? Here are some of the possibilities:

***There is an undiagnosed or unaddressed learning issue. Has the student ever has a solid psycho-educational evaluation to find out learning strengths/weaknesses?

***Maybe the student has ADHD or other attentional issues. Did you know that anxiety is also something that might seem like ADHD but is not? Or that maybe it co-occurs with ADHD? Think about it – a student that is nervous or upset about a learning or personal situation is not going to be able to concentrate. So it’s important to tease out what’s ADHD and what’s an underlying psychological issue.

***Anxiety is paralyzing. I have seen too many bright kids who can’t think or perform when they are feeling anxious.

***Maybe the student has executive function issues going on – that is, he/she can’t find the work they did, forget to turn it in, bring the right book home to do the assignment, etc. These are the kids who can’t manage their time and are chronically disorganized. It can come along with all of the above issues, too.

***Maybe the kid is super bright – and doesn’t feel like doing work they find meaningless. Motivating these very intelligent kids is a huge challenge. And many gifted kids also have other issues such as learning disabilities, executive function problems, attentional problems, and anxiety. So they get to struggle with all of the above. Nice combo, huh?

***Then there are kids who are oppositional, or shut down, or angry, or depressed – all of these factors will interfere with learning and attitude. Big time.

***Maybe the teen is hanging out with the wrong crowd – and starting to make some poor choices. They might also be using substances to mask their feelings because it’s too hard to cope – or they don’t see any reason to stay sober.

***And maybe they are just immature. Some kids need longer to grow up.

***What if the kid is just lazy? Then what can we do to give them a reason to have ambition, hope for the future, and improved work ethic?

***Is the student in the right educational setting? Would they respond or have their needs met better in a different school? Do they need more teachers as mentors in their lives?

***Do they have the right study skills? It’s actually surprising how many kids actually don’t know HOW to study. They stare at the book but do not know how to organize information in any meaningful way that they can later retrieve from memory. I wish every student would be required to take a study skills course.

***Do they have anything they can be proud of? Any accomplishments? Abilities? Interests? Talents? I’m always looking for our “hook” so that we can capture their positive attributes.

***Here is something else I consider to be a very important factor. Because so many of my students are kids on the move, Third Culture Kids, or globally nomadic kids – whatever you want to call them – I also see kids who are struggling with cultural adjustment issues. When I work with therapists, I want to be sure they understand what it’s like to be in transition, start over, question your identity, give up your friends, etc. This is much more serious than a lot of people think. Some kids are just not ready to move forward with their lives until they work these issues out with a professional.

One thing I am convinced of is that every one of these kids can be reached. I’ve worked with all of the above and seen amazing stories of turnarounds. But what has to happen first is to get to the bottom of what’s getting in the way of success. They rarely “just grow out of it”. And by the time they do, they have missed out on many valuable opportunities. The older they are, the higher the stakes.

So back to the original question – are there colleges for D students? How about if we reframe the question – why is the kid a D student?

The best part of my job? When I get to work with the student from the first cries for help from the frustrated parents, see the teen transform him/herself over time, and then help with their college applications. This month I’ve read several essays from “my kids” that have moved me to tears as they look back and tell their stories of transformation. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Where should students begin with the college search?

The first step is self-knowledge. Have you thought about your learning style, your academic abilities, your career orientation, your preferences for academic/social balance, your financial needs, geographic preferences? Have you visited any local colleges or universities to discover what you like and dislike about their size, campus culture, rural or urban location or any of the myriad other aspects of a college campus? You should begin with these basics and then start to explore college options.