Preparing for College

How do I know which colleges to apply to?

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Question: Hi Dean! I'm a high school junior, and I met with my guidance counselor already because I am very nervous about applying to colleges next year. She recommended some schools that she said might be good fits for me, but I haven't heard of any of them except for one. I know that I should go visit them but a couple are pretty far away, and I feel like I should know more before planning an expensive trip. So what are good ways to start checking out colleges and deciding which ones to apply to?

Starting the college selection process can be overwhelming indeed and too many students take the easy way out by considering only colleges that are close to home or that are prestigious and renowned, that friends or siblings or some hot-shot from last year's senior class attended, or maybe a couple places that made it to the NCAA Final Four in March.

You're lucky that you have a guidance counselor who was able to offer you recommendations that apparently aren't all the "Usual Suspects," like the state school in an adjacent town. But I agree that it's hard to have a sense of an institution that you know nothing about. So before you and your family spring for a road trip (or a plane trip!) and for a couple rooms at the Ritz (or the Econo Lodge?), here are a few ways to explore the schools your counselor suggested:

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