Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
  • Stanford University
  • Princeton University

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    International Office Director

The College Search: Where to Start

Fred Hargadon -

college admissions expert advice from Following the old adage, “well-begun is half-done,” I’d like to suggest that you begin your college search by taking some time to think seriously about why it is you want to go to college in the first place and about what, once you get there, you hope to gain. In other words, the more thought you give now to what it is you think you want to learn and experience in college, the better informed will be your decisions. Otherwise, you’re likely to find yourself in the situation akin to that of trying to decide whether to drive, fly, or take a train without first deciding where you want to go.

Set aside some quiet time in order to reflect frankly on your strengths and weaknesses: think about what it is that you now know, are especially interested in, do well, or just plain enjoy and, therefore, would like an opportunity to continue to pursue in college; and about what it is, on the other hand, that you don’t know (but think you should) or don’t do particularly well (but hope to learn to do better) and, therefore, also want to pursue in college.

I’d even go so far as to recommend that you sketch out a tentative plan of what it is you wish to accomplish in college (not a plan of what you want to do after college, but in college), keeping in mind that you’re likely to alter it as you go along. It just seems to me that the better you understand some of the ways you hope to change and grow during college, the better you will be able to identify those colleges that are most likely to meet your needs.

For example, whether your goal right now happens to be becoming a doctor, an engineer, or a writer, you might decide that you also want to leave college having become bilingual, having mastered a musical instrument, having gained more than a superficial appreciation of art, or having taken up a sport like rowing.

As someone once wisely pointed out, the person you will spend most of your life with is you, and therefore you owe it to yourself to become as interesting as possible. (Think hard about this one.)

In my next post, I will discuss the concept of “first choice” colleges.

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