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.

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.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

So many options

The college search can be overwhelming initially. Take it one step at a time, starting early enough so you aren't pressured. Independent educational consultants, college fairs, guidance offices, campus tours/info sessions, family and friends, guidebooks (The Insider's Guide), websites (Unigo!) all serve a purpose in the quest for information. If you are self directed and motivated, go for it. Some folks need a little more direction to get in the groove. Having a sense of large vs. small enrollment, public vs. private institution, rural/urban/suburban campus, and major of study can help narrow down the options. Sometimes it's hard to decide what comes first. Just dive in and eventually you will create a context in which to compare all the information as you collect it.