As a college prospect, you’ve probably have been told to start looking at colleges. But what does that mean? That sage advice may sound wonderful but it’s an overwhelming task with very little guidance.
To begin the school search, you have to have a sense of what types of institutions you can envision yourself being happy at. In the US, the choices are enormous. There are over 4,000 colleges and universities. They range from public and private 2-year colleges and community colleges, 4-year public state colleges and universities, small private liberal arts colleges to private independent colleges and universities that are among the nation’s and the world’s best. The choices are endless, unless you have a clear idea of your academic strengths as well as the type of learning communities you want to be a part of. Therefore, it’s not as simple as saying I want the IVIES because they too are different from one another.
To do an effective college search, below are some guidelines and guideposts to help steer you into the right direction.
Do a self-assessment of your abilities. How are you doing in school? What was your performance on standardized tests? What demonstrated talents do you have outside of the classrooms? What stokes your intellectual fire? Answering these thoughtfully reflective questions will help get you started in identifying the types of college and university is of numerical fit.
There are numerous resources such as Forbes, Money, FTWR and many others that can help you identify if you’re a numerical fit, chief among them is the US News and World Report. On their website, you can input your GPA and SAT1 scores, along with the size of the school you desire, and location, to yield a healthy list of schools to consider that is of numerical match.
Given that many selective and highly selective colleges and universities evaluate students holistically, you have to go beyond the surface ad dig deeper to identify a qualitative fit. Visiting institutional websites will be key, but don’t just visit their admissions pages. Explore what’s happening on campus by visiting the student paper. Mesmerize yourself with their research activities and find out what current students and alumni are saying about their educational experience.
Once you have a list of 8-10 schools, plan a campus visit to a handful of them, especially ones in which you may apply Early Decision to. While the summer provides the best opportunity to visit schools, sadly it doesn’t give you a real sense of the vibrancy of campus life. Therefore, plan a second visit to your top 2-3 choices during the Spring of your Junior year or Fall of your Senior year. Remember, don’t just do a campus tour and an information session, go beyond it. Doing your due diligence can significantly help inform your writing of their supplemental essays.