This information is targeted mainly at high school juniors. Granted, you're busy right now with school's year-end requirements. You're thinking about next month's Advanced Placement exams, maybe some Subject Tests, and/or another SAT. Maybe you're also conducting a summer job search, now that school is winding down. If you're a spring-sport athlete, you've got practices and games to contend with, plus you've got a life, right? I hope so. Spring weather offers opportunities to get out there with that boy or girl of your dreams and get away from thinking about differential equations and the Laws of Thermodynamics.
Well, let me throw something else onto your pile of important thoughts -- college choices. In just a matter of months, you'll be a high school senior. You'll be amazed at how fast you can go from spring to fall. Summers are usually a blur, so start thinking ahead now. Maybe you can do some quality thinking during the summer blur, but human nature, being what it is, usually sidetracks advanced planning for teenagers. So, the challenge I'll issue to you today is to start thinking about which colleges best suit your higher education needs and which ones will see your application roll in.
Of course, if your parents are willing and you have the time (probably not), you may want to squeeze in a couple college visits now before students leave campus. As I've said before, visiting a college while the student body is in residence is unquestionably the best time to visit. You'll feel the energy of the students, experience the atmosphere of a "live" college campus, and maybe even get to sit in on a class or two. Plus, don't forget those college tours (pictured) where you get to see how accomplished some people can be at walking backward. Okay, here's a dumb riddle: Why is college-candidate selection like a Christmas song?
The old favorite, “Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" has a lyric that says “He's makin' a list and checkin' it twice." When it comes to picking colleges to apply to, high schoolers need to make their list and check it twice. Maybe check it more than twice.
For you juniors who are considering a four-year college, now's the time to do some thinking. You may have never thought of yourself as a “consumer" about college matters. Perhaps to you, consumers are those people who buy laundry detergent and then give their opinion to some telephone survey person.
Not so fast, future frosh. This is where informed decision making becomes crucial. In past comments here we have addressed the issue of money as a consideration for attending college. As you may have noted, money is only one of your considerations. Deal with it after you address some other important criteria.
When you ask yourself what you want from a college, don't be shy. What do you really want? Do you want a school that has a beautiful campus in a secluded part of the country or one that is in the heart of a big city? Are the school's prestige and reputation important to you? Can you define what level of academics you prefer in your chosen area of concentration? How far from home do you want to be?
Will teaching assistants (TAs) instructing some of your classes satisfy you or do you want senior faculty teaching you? How about access to that faculty? Will your school have professors who are approachable in situations beyond office hours? How about student body size? How about the weather? Are you getting the picture here?
There are so many considerations. You are the one who should make the call, though. So what are you waiting for? Get out paper and pencil right now and write down what is truly in your heart about college. Even if you have never set foot on a college campus, you may have an ideal stored away in your dreams. Write it down. Over the next few weeks, keep adding to your list.
By Thanksgiving, you should have quite a detailed summary of what you want from a college. Then it will be up to you to find some matches for your candidate list that will form the nucleus for your college search. Your research should come from guide books, campus visits, and your own honest reactions.
The best source for your research, though, is as close as your computer. SuperMatch is College Confidential's world-class college search tool. SuperMatch is the latest advantage College Confidential provides for high schoolers. As the CC Web site's SuperMatch link proclaims, “College Confidential can help you narrow down your school choices. Search more than 3,000 colleges and universities by name, location, or area of study!" SuperMatch allows students and parents to search online for a college or university by using 19 criteria, including location, tuition, admission standards, major and Greek life. So, check it out!
Thus, if you can state what you really want from a college, you'll find that there are several (or more) out there waiting with open arms. Go find your super matches!
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.