The College Search
Conduct your college search with as open a mind as possible. Avoid thinking of colleges in terms of a few descriptive traits or adjectives. Remember, all colleges are complex, multifaceted institutions. For instance, it’s doubtful that very many students at any single college experience the place in precisely the same way on any given day, let alone during any given week, or month, or year. Indeed, that almost surely is not the case.
There aren’t any shortcuts to finding out about colleges, despite all of the guidebooks that purport to help you do so. Beginning in the spring of your junior year, write to the colleges that interest you and request to be added to their mailing lists for admissions information and publications for the next year. For colleges that update their materials and applications each year, such materials are normally available in late summer. Be sure to include your full name, home address, name of high school, and the year in which your expect to graduate from high school.
The important thing is to actually read the information the colleges send you. After you’ve done so, you should make a short list (half dozen or so) of the schools that interest you most. Then, check with your high school’s college counselor to see if such colleges appear to be reasonable ones for you. If they are, spend some time checking them out in earnest. If you can, try to visit the schools on your list sometime between May of your junior year and the middle of December senior year. Plan to spend at least half a day on each campus. Take tours if they are offered. And if the college’s admission office offers opportunities to meet with a staff member, be sure to arrange such a meeting. (It is likely that you will need to plan ahead. Simply call the colleges on your list to find out when interviews are offered, when tours are given, when classes are in session, and so forth).
A couple of key questions to keep in mind when researching the colleges on your list are: What resources, both academic and non-academic, are offered by college _________ and how can I imagine myself taking advantage of those resources over the course of four years?
Your goal: to come up with a list of colleges, any one of which you’d be happy to attend.
By the way, if representatives from the colleges on your list visit your high school or host information sessions in your area, make every effort to attend. After all, it’s not a bad idea to show your interest in those colleges that you eventually hope will show an interest in you.