Creating your own college blueprint
It’s mid-October and high school seniors across the country are working on their college applications. And with the FAFSA being available on October 1, there is an added component to the college application process. This can be a stressful time for students, who are juggling their school course load, extracurricular activities and family obligations. And sadly, for students affected by the many natural disasters this year, there is an added level of stress and difficulty.
To combat the stress, and manage this busy time, we’ve pulled together some helpful tips that will not only help you narrow your college search, but help you find the best campus for you. And with over 4,000 colleges out there, in order to find the campus that fits you best, you need to know yourself.
Begin with some questions
The most important first step in figuring out where you want to go to college is to determine what you value, to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and to find out who you are and who you hope to become. These questions are a good starting place:
- What has been your most stimulating intellectual experience in or out of the classroom and why?
- Which of your accomplishments give you the most pride?
- Are your ACT/SAT scores an accurate reflection of your ability?
- What kinds of surroundings are essential to your well-being?
Continue to ask yourself more self-reflective questions.
Once you have answered these questions, it’s time to start thinking about specific colleges.
Schedule: Commit to your college search as you would a term paper or studying for a test. Set aside specific time daily/weekly.
Strategy: What are you looking for in a college? Spend the time investigating your ideal “fit” for college in order to narrow down your list to schools that truly interest you. Things to consider:
- Special academic programs
- Student facilities
- Study abroad
- What do graduates of the school do after graduation?
- Is the community diverse?
- Student organizations
- Who will be teaching the courses?
- What is the academic advising system?
- What is the relationship between students and administrators?
- What types of financial assistance are offered?
Organization: Keeping track of what you learn is essential to staying on top of your research. Having a college binder divided by school will allow you to easily refer back to your notes when narrowing down your search.
Resources: Use your network around you to help get “insider” information. Talk to teachers, family members, alumni of the college, college representatives and gain firsthand knowledge. Use as many sources of information as you can – books, websites, etc. Be sure to consult a number of resources before you draw any conclusions about a particular college, as you should never rely on only one source when evaluating a college.
Just being on a college campus for a few hours can tell you a great deal about the community and culture. Visit a college campus nearby and you will begin to learn what you like and what you don’t like, as well as what to look for.
Develop a college list
The key to a good college list is research and an open mind. Explore a wide range of schools before you start focusing on your list. Research does not commit you to anything except time and taking notes. Your list should have six to eight colleges with a range of selectivity that are ideal for YOU.
Check out TGR EDU: Explore’s College Blueprint
Available for free, the College Blueprint allows students to take a virtual campus tour to learn about the college admissions process — from exploration to acceptance to paying for college. This comprehensive, interactive digital experience will answer a wide range of questions as you begin your college search.
And remember, focus on finding the best place for you to be successful, happy and challenged. Be open to the possibilities!
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