You Can Organize Your College Search
Choose the right college without getting stressed out.
Friends of ours are prepared to see their daughter graduate from high school this June. Well before that, she’ll have to decide where she plans to attend school. Her list has been narrowed down to her top three and her applications are being readied to be sent off.
Finding the right college is important because it can greatly impact your post-secondary experience and help prepare you for a career. If you’re satisfied with your selection, you’ll find your college years to be enjoyable. If you’re dissatisfied, you may soon find yourself wanting to transfer, perhaps losing credits and time along the way.
You can organize your college search to help narrow your list of possibilities:
1. Set up a calendar. You’ll want to use a dedicated calendar to help you track the schools that interest you and the deadlines to make application. That calendar should also feature dates that you need letters of recommendations by and related appointments you may have with your guidance counselor or other advisor. Place your SAT or ACT testing date(s) on the calendar as well as the dates those results should become available to you.
2. Separate and organize. Just how formal you want to be in organizing your college information is up to you. Lots of information today is sent to you online, therefore you may not much in the way of hard copies to save. What paperwork you do have should be kept in clearly labeled file folders, one for each school. Those folders can be put in hanging files and placed in a file cabinet. Consider printing out related *pdf documents and important email correspondence and including this information in your file.
3. Keep your contacts. Contact information for each school can be kept on one list or your can print that information on the outside of your file folders. That list can include an assortment of people who are there to help pave your entrance into college including: your references, former instructors, scholarship providers and alumni. A name, contact number and a mailing address and/or an e-mail address are essential — leave room for notes to track when you talked with that person and what was discussed.
4. Evaluate your choices. It is easy to find eight to 10 colleges that you like, but you’ll want to limit your applications to your top three choices. When you see how much time is required to make application and the cost involved, you’ll understand the wisdom of narrowing your list. At this point you’ll want to develop a ranking formula to remove those schools that aren’t part of your top three. Likely, you can remove at least one school straight away with perhaps more before you begin to trim your list. Assign a number grade with “5″ being the highest to “1″ being the lowest for a number of categories including: school location, programs offered, cost, living conditions, campus and other factors that are important to you. This exercise will help you objectively separate the contenders from the rest. Evaluate that list — if one of your top picks falls short, examine why. It could be that you place a higher value on one factor over the other. Give yourself some time to finalize your list, but only move forward when you’re certain that your choices are what you want.
5. Make application. — With your list limited to your top choices, apply to each school per the deadlines listed on your calendar. Send off your application well before the deadline to avoid possible delays. When you’re through with one school, check it off of the calendar and prepare your next application.
If you have more than one school with a similar application deadline, you’ll need to move up your application enough to successfully complete both applications on time. One way to handle this is to send off your first application as soon as the school’s standard application period begins. When done, you’ll then turn your attention to the next application.
See Also — Search for College Scholarships