Begin the senior year with a list of eight to ten colleges of interest. Don’t believe only one school in the world is the perfect one. Oftentimes students “compromise” and go to schools that are not their first choice. Many of these students end up absolutely loving that school. Other students attend their “dream” school and then transfer. Reach for dreams while making sure the final college list has one or two schools which a student is almost absolutely certain to be admitted. As importantly, don’t put any schools on the list that a student would not be happy attending.
For most students, choosing a college is the most important decision of their lives thus far. Understandably, making a college list can feel overwhelming given that there are over 4,000 colleges in the US. The best way to approach the list is to thoroughly research the choices and make well-informed decisions. The goal is to cultivate a well-balanced list of 8 to 10 schools.
The advisors at International College Counselors can help you make the process easier:
STEP ONE: DO A PRELIMINARY COLLEGE SEARCH
Hop on the Internet. Get familiar with the colleges and universities that are out there. Websites like College Confidential, College Board, Cappex and Naviance have robust college profiles. Look at colleges that have familiar names, but don’t miss out on researching other schools that are lesser known. These schools may be a strong fit for your student, if not better than some well-known ones.
Type in “college” with different words, like “warm weather,” “green,” “friendliest,” “best dorms” or “sports enthusiasts.” If the school looks interesting, take a deeper look. Find out more about colleges mentioned by friends, parents, teachers, or coaches. Attend college fairs and meet college reps who visit the high school. Investigate at least three or four colleges that are not familiar to you.
STEP TWO: MAKE A LIST OF WHAT THE COLLEGE MUST HAVE
Write down the top five things a college must have. These are the deal-breakers. If a college doesn’t have these five things, cross it off the list. One of those deal-breakers should be the student’s major (if they have one). If engineering is a desired career path, it’s going to be very hard to explore the possibilities if the school has no resources. Then, make another list of the five things “I wish the college has.” This list will help weed down the list, but don’t use it to cross off schools yet. There’s more research to be done.
STEP THREE: DO IN-DEPTH RESEARCH
Hop online again. Scour the official website of all colleges of interest. Look beyond the obvious facts like campus size, location, courses of study, and degree programs. Investigate campus activities, study-abroad programs, student organizations, special programs, etc. College experiences differ greatly. Have questions and can’t find the answers online? Call/ Email the school. Do not cross off any college because of cost. Many colleges offer financial aid, scholarships, and other help that make them far more affordable than they first appear.
STEP FOUR: GET A SECOND/THIRD/FOURTH/ETC. OPINION
Talk to your college counselor. Talk with trusted family, friends, teachers, and mentors. Talk to alumni. On most college websites, you can find information on the alumni association. Be creative. Search the Internet for college-specific phrases in quotes, like, “I graduated from Northeastern,” or “Since graduating from FSU.” See what former and current students have to say. Check out sites like Unigo and Rate My Professors where the rankings are based on student reviews.
STEP FIVE: VISIT SCHOOLS
If possible, visit at least three schools before senior year starts. The Internet is no substitute for an actual college visit. It’s always a good idea to check out colleges in different settings like a major city versus a suburb.
STEP SIX: CREATE A COLLEGE LIST
For the personal one-on-one help making a college list, connect with an International College Counselors advisor by calling 954-414-9986.