Helping your students start their college search

Are you students stymied by starting their college search? They’re not alone. Many high school students feel overwhelmed by beginning the process. But not to worry, here are five simple steps your students can take to get over that first big hurdle.

1. Write down some things you know about yourself. What subjects are you excited to learn more about? Which do you struggle with? What environments have been the best for you to learn in (ex: classroom groups or working by yourself? Do you prefer one-on-one attention from your teacher or are you more of a self-starter?) Are you more comfortable in an urban, suburban, or rural area?

2. Talk with your parents. Start talking with your parents about what you do and don’t know about what you’re looking for in a school. Involve them in conversations with your high school counselor so you’re all on the same page early on when it comes to financial needs, academic needs, and more. Having these conversations early on can help you plan together as a family.

3. Keep an open mind. Students and parents often gravitate to top ranked universities, but the right university may turn out to be one you’ve never heard of. It’s good to look at rankings like U.S. News & World Report, but don’t limit yourself to those schools. Take the time to explore all kinds of options. Hear from Ted Fiske of the Fiske Guide to Colleges about good ways to get started.

4. Start exploring. Take the opportunity to attend in-person and online college fairs and to meet with admissions counselors who visit your high school. This is a great way to start your research. Then when you get back from the event, sort the packets into “yes”, “no”, and “maybe” categories. Jot down notes about what else you’d like to learn about the schools you’re considering.

5. Ask lots of questions. It’s the best way to learn. Many schools now offer online chats so you can connect with admissions counselors, faculty, and students. That’s a fantastic way to move beyond slick marketing materials and find out insider information about each university. (Tip: Find sample questions here.)