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.

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.

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.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Where should students begin with the college search?

Junior year is probably a good time for most students to begin thinking about college in earnest. However, in terms of college preparation and building up your academic record, I feel that 9th grade is when students need to really think about time management, academic diligence, and personal accountability. Once you are a junior in high school, it's too late to "fix" your 9-10th grade GPAs. It is also difficult to change deeply ingrained habits. So -- while thinking about colleges can probably wait until your junior year -- PREPARING for college needs to start in 9th grade.

Reena Gold Kamins
Founder College, Career & Life, LLC.

Start your search with the criteria that is most important to you.

There are many factors to consider when searching for colleges. Size, distance from home, available majors, opportunities for internships, and your chances of playing a sport you love are just a few of the things to think about. When you're ready to make a college list, make a list of the criteria that are important to you. Next, choose the one or two items on your list that are deal breakers. For example, if you absolutely must be able to study criminology, then that's your deal breaker. Use your deal breaker to begin your search. That is, begin by looking for all of the schools that offer criminology. Once you've got a list of schools offering criminology, beginning narrowing your list with the other criteria you identified.

Michael Szarek
Director and Founder College Counseling for the Rest of Us

Begin With You

Students should start the search from within. What I mean by that is that students should start with the old 'what do I want to be when I grow up' question. They don't need to answer it directly. In fact, they should expect that their answer will evolve over time. But they should have an idea of what excites them - what academic subjects, what potential careers, what extra-curricular activities and what type of school - big/small, rural/urban, far from home/close to home. Only then can they effectively 'dive in' and sort through the 4000 colleges in this country.to find the ones that fit their needs and goals.

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University

Where should students begin with the college search?

Figure out what it is that you want in a college. Do you want to be in a city, suburb, rural? Big school, small school, medium school? How far are you willing to go away to school? What does the ideal campus look like in your head? That is where I would start. After you figure those things out, then begin looking at your potential majors. Which schools offer the major that I want? Do those schools match what I want in a University or College? Then visit those schools that match your goals and wishes. After visiting you begin to understand which colleges will be right fit for you and which ones won't.

Patty Finer

Where should students begin with the college search?

FISKE! This is a great book to start the process with!