How to Start Your College Search

Once you’ve decided that going to college is the best next step for you, there are a lot more steps to take. One of the first and most important steps is applying to schools and waiting for the acceptance letters. But what do you do if you have no particular schools in mind? Some students lean toward certain colleges because family members are alumni or because of a life-long dream; you may start your college search from scratch. How do you decide which schools to apply to?

Start with a List (or Two)

If you’re starting your college search with no clues in mind just yet, begin by making a few lists. What do you want in a school? What don’t you want? What might you want to study? Are you open to both large and small schools? How far from home do you want to be? Is there a specific city you want to move to? What are your financial restrictions?

Considering these questions will help you learn about your wants and needs from your college experience. From there, it will be much easier to eliminate the No Ways from the Maybes. Cross-reference your lists and begin your search by investigating schools in your area or colleges friends and family members have attended. They can give you some great insight as to what a particular college is really like. Knowing what you want is the first step to your college search.

Once you narrow down a list of schools you’re interested in, you can examine them more closely to see which ones are viable options. Research their acceptance rates and compare their student average information to your own academic records.

College Visits and Campus Tours

Campus tours will be a great way to learn more about the colleges you’re considering applying to. During a tour, you can learn tons of valuable information about the school, the student body, the programs and activities offered on campus, and more. Tour guides are available to answer any questions you may have, and being on the school’s campus will help you envision yourself going to college there. Can you see yourself living there for four years? Is the surrounding area the exact opposite of what you had expected? Does the campus feel warm and inviting to you?

Following these steps, you’ll be able to create a reasonably-sized list of the colleges that might be right for you. Remember, sending out an application doesn’t mean you’ll be committed to a school or even that you’ll receive an acceptance, so it’s fine to apply to schools you aren’t 100% sure about. There’s more time for deciding after the acceptance and rejection letters come in, so it’s okay to send one or two applications to Maybe schools and just wait to see what happens next.


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