It’s that time of year – making a list and checking it twice. And no – we’re not talking about a Santa list. Now is a good time to begin thinking about your college list. Use some of your down time during winter break and the steps below to get a jump start on your college list.
- Identify and prioritize your criteria. Size, location, academic programs, cost, extracurricular activities, campus life – there are many factors to consider when thinking about a perfect college. What are you looking for and what factors are most important to you?
- Gather and organize information. Maybe you’ve received brochures from colleges in the mail, or perhaps you went to a college fair this fall. It’s likely that you’ve already collected materials from some colleges. Organize those materials (make a folder for each school) and list what you like and don’t like about those schools.
- Do an online college search. Use your GuidedPath account or a free college search engine like College Board’s BigFuture or College Navigator (by the National Center for Education Statistics) to do a search for schools that meet your most important criteria. Add criteria to narrow your results to a manageable number for research (think less than 50 schools).
- Start to categorize schools. From your initial search, start grouping colleges into categories like “Favorites”, “Needs more research”, “Schools I want to visit”, etc. You can also look at the profile of the students who were offered admission. What were their grades and test scores and how do you compare (higher or lower)? Would this school likely offer you admission based on your grades and test scores (Likely or Target school) – or is it a “Reach.” Just because a school is a reach doesn’t mean you should take it off your list. However, you don’t want to end up with a final list of only “Reach” schools.
Get an early start on your college list by doing some online research now. Getting organized can help you plan college visits this spring. It will also help you prepare for any college fairs or events your high school might be hosting next semester.