How should I start my college search?

I’m ready to start looking for colleges. I’ve got plenty of time, right?”

I just got the above text from a friend of one of my current students. She was busy over the summer, and was just now starting to think about her college plans. 

She’s….a senior. 

After a pause, I set up a meeting and said, “There’s still time left, but be ready to work hard. You need to define your roadmap and start driving now!”  So the key takeaway for parents and students is to get started early and enjoy the journey together. Waiting for senior year only adds stress and limits the time you have to focus on your goals. 

Here are some tips for creating your college roadmap: 

First, think about what you want out of college. If someone gave you $125,000 to buy a car and told you that you had to choose a car in less than a year, would you go out and just buy the one your friends liked best or had the prettiest color? No, I’ll bet you would do your homework first to carefully plan how you would spend this amazing windfall. You’d think of key factors before shopping, like what will the car be used for (commuting long distances or just for fun?), and what types of factors are important to YOU, since you will be the primary driver of this $125,000 vehicle.

Start with a list of YOUR key college factors. The same approach for choosing a car applies to college choices. Think about your college tours (haven’t taken any yet? Visit any local colleges, just to get ideas! Sign up for tours online through the Admissions office via the college website). What appealed to you? Did you like the idea of smaller class sizes where you can interact with the professor and students? Do you need to be near ski slopes because that’s your favorite hobby that relaxes you? 

Next, think about locations and the experience you want for 4 years. Are you ready for new adventures, or do you need to stay close to home or friends/relatives to feel comfortable? Think about where you have traveled and what you enjoyed. Do you need to be near an airport for easy travel home? Think out of the box and if you are ready to spread your wings a bit. There are so many amazing colleges not near big cities that offer fun experiences, lovely communities, and a great atmosphere for your academic adventures.

Most importantly, think about budget
Your family needs to be honest about what can be sustained for 4 years, not just the first year. Applying to see what financial aid comes in, and then making a decision later, often ends in heartbreak. What if all the colleges you applied for come in over budget without enough aid? Create a financial parameter, have honest discussions about what is affordable and who is paying for what parts of college. TODAY. Make it part of your college application process to know what schools are financially ‘safe’. And, be excited to attend those colleges as much as any others on the list.

Need help jump starting your college process? I have great ways to start your journey for any age of high school student.  Email me for an Introductory Session so I can help you plan ahead and be ready to enjoy the journey early! 

Stay tuned for next month’s blog: How to create your activities list and resume for a strong college application that truly reflects YOU.