How can I select the right college?

Question: How can I select the right college? There are so many out there.

Don't be overwhelmed by the thousands of colleges and universities from which you can choose. Your goal should be to limit your search by applying certain restrictions.

For example, ask yourself how far from home you want to be. Let's say you're willing to go to college no farther than three hours (by car) from your home. You can average about 50 miles per hour when traveling by car, taking into consideration rest and food stops and local traffic situations. That means you could consider schools within a 150-mile radius of where you live.

Get a map of your part of the country, check the mileage scale on the map, and cut a piece of string equal to 150 map miles. Connect one end of the string to a pin and the other to a pencil or marker.

Put the pin on the map where you live, pull the string out straight, annd draw a circle. Now all you have to do is find out what colleges and universities exist inside the circle. A good source for this information is the big ARCO college guide book. Schools are profiled by state and there is a map for each state showing where all the colleges and universities are located.

Other decision points come from selecting between public or private, large or small, urban or suburban, coed or single sex, liberal arts or pre-professional emphasis, warm-weather or temperate location, prestige reputation or lesser-well-known, high cost/good financial aid or lower cost/lower aid, and so forth. Going through this selection process will narrow the field from thousands to a manageable handful very quickly.

You should be able to identify at least six candidate schools by the end of your junior year in high school. I refer to this list as the hard half-dozen. These are the schools that have met your selection restrictions, the ones you want to visit during the summer before your senior year. Your visits can narrow down even this short list. Now, that was easy, wasn