Look it’s you! Looking for colleges! I’m not sure if binoculars will help you see any clearer, but regardless… the time is now to start the search for the school that’s right for you! (But seriously, ditch the binocs. You look ridiculous.)
I know, I know. It’s summer. Why should anyone start looking for colleges now? Well, I’m getting ready to head into my junior year of high school and I’ve been searching like a mad man for colleges that are interesting to me. Why start now? Well, first-- starting early means no rushing! You have plenty of time to think about and search for the colleges that would be a good fit for you. You also have a plethora of opportunities to schedule visits-- an EXTREMELY good chance to experience the college!
So, now that that’s cleared up, where to start? A lot of my friends haven’t started looking for colleges because they don’t know where to start, or how to continue once they have some schools in mind. Trust me on this one, I’m an expert. (I started looking for colleges when I was eight and wanted to be an advice columnist. To my dismay, there was no “Giving Clichéd Advice to Middle Aged Women” major, so I nixed that career.) Onward!
THE THINK TANK
1) Think about what you want to get out of your college experience. Consider size (student body population, campus size and academic opportunities offered), location (right down the street, in the same state, far away or overseas?), and money (also- financial aid opportunities). You may also want to jot down some other things, like student life (dorms, organizations, sports, etc.).
2) Think about a subject you’re interested in. If you already know what you want to major in or make a career out of-- fantastic. If not, pick something broad but that you excel in. For example, maybe you don’t want to be a scientist with a lab coat and special room for your experiments (DEE DEE GET OUT OF MY LABORATORY!), but you find natural science interesting and you understand it. So go for it, focus on what you’re good at and/or what interests you.
DON'T BE LISTLESS
1) Now that you have a subject in mind, ask around. Ask your parents (they might know more than you think about colleges and their specialties-- they were once in your shoes). Ask your teachers, specifically the one(s) that teach your desired subject. They can give helpful information about what schools they looked at, and the one they actually went to. Being extremely qualified in that subject, they surely know about programs and colleges that would be good. (I know, it’s summer. Shoot them an email or wait until the school year begins.)
2) Go get a book specifically on colleges-- many have great articles and literally everything you could want to know about any school in the country-- ACT and SAT scores, most popular majors and other interesting facts.
3) Consult Google.
GOOGLE THE ALMIGHTY
1) I hope you’re enjoying my cheesy subheadings.
2) Do a quick Google search “top colleges with (subject here) programs” or something of the like. (Add in your state name/region if you’re looking to stay close to home.) Try, if you can, to be as specific as possible (algebra, engineering, natural sciences, European history, Germanic studies, etc.) but if you have to be broad-- that’s perfectly fine.
3) Click on the links, surely some will give you lists of top colleges. Of course Harvard, Yale, Berkeley will be in the top, don’t let that pressure you. Scroll down to see some more choices. (Note: these listings might be years old, but nevertheless they give a place to start.) Write down some colleges you might be interested in, or check out them all. Maybe if you’ve never been to but love the idea of California, Arizona, Michigan, etc., write down a college in that state!
4) Once you’ve got a hearty list, continue to the schools’ websites. (All should end in .edu, otherwise it might not be official.)
CAUGHT IN THE WEB(SITE)
2) After that, check out the website more. Go to the student life page, the sports page, etc. Check out a map of it and see the surrounding city. Check the tuition and financial aid options! Also, if you took AP or IB classes, see if they transfer as credits or as prerequisite courses (these differ among colleges [some don’t accept these classes at all] and the AP/IB class themselves. For example, my AP US History credits will make it so I can skip US History as a class in college, yet my AP Bio credit will simply just give me a credit going towards my graduation but I still have to take the class itself).
3) Is there a virtual tour? These are nice to get a quick overview of some things around campus. However, they are NOT NOT NOT stand-ins for actual campus visits. Do not think “Oh, I took a virtual tour, that’s all I need to do!” No. A real live in person tour is always the best option for getting the real feel of the campus. (Although, if a campus tour isn’t possible, virtual tours still help.)
4) Weed out the schools you aren’t so pleased with (maybe just looking at a website isn’t good enough for you to decide which schools are good and which aren’t-- keep searching the internet and asking people about their experiences, it might help you narrow down some schools).
*Also, see if the college has a YouTube, Facebook or Twitter page. These can help you put yourself on the campus and in the life of the college. You can be updated on special guests, events or other activities happening. YouTube videos are great for those of you who are very visually motivated.
Next, is an actual college visit. But by this time, you’ve already got a good list of schools going and a good idea of what each of these with bring to you in terms of academics and beyond! You’re on your way.
I hope this helped you get started, and shoot me a tweet if you have any other questions: @natatatcat