College Search Overview for Beginners

Almost as soon as high school begins students turn their attention to the college admissions process. There are plenty of places to turn for help – from counselors to older siblings and parents – but the college search can be overwhelming. Taking the first step can seem unachievable.

The following tips aren’t the end all. They are only the tip of a vast iceberg. But having a good overview of the process give you an idea of where to start, how to plan and what steps you should take when. The college admissions process can only be navigated by planning and having clear expectations of what’s ahead.

1. Every college is different. No two colleges will have exactly the same admissions requirements. Your high school counselor can help with details, as can each school’s Web site. Even if you have only a slight interest in a college investigate what it takes to get in, even as a freshmen or sophomore in college. This can help you set appropriate academic goals. Also, plan on applying to several colleges.

2. Mark your calendars. Each application will have a deadline, but you will need to be aware of earlier deadlines for the many parts involved. Mapping out what is needed when will save you from much of the stress faced by college applicants. This can also be a time to set milestones for the major events of the college search. The process typically begins junior year and will last through spring semester of senior year.

3. Get to know the colleges. Just because you watch college football and know a school’s mascot and fight song doesn’t mean the college is right for you. Your comfort level with school size, location, academic programs offered and student activities offered will play a larger role in your college success than a sports team’s win-loss record.

4. Your actions now impact college later. From the moment you walk step foot on the high school campus your college clock starts ticking. Your grades in class will count towards your GPA. Explore your interests and passions by getting involved in activities in and out of school.

Applying to college is a pivotal point in a young person’s life. Do the college search right. Start the college admissions process early. This will give you the most options with the least stress. Get others involved to help you avoid mistakes and offer advice. And, most importantly, enjoy the ride.