Student Life

Don’t Stress the College Search, Just Keep Organized

Organization is key for a successful college search -- find out how to manage the process.

Student Contributor, Ailani Ocasio

January 28, 2021

Don’t Stress the College Search, Just Keep Organized
Helpful tips from a student on how to stay organized during the college search.
I finished my college applications about a month ago and felt a wave of incomparable relief. After months of preparing, researching, making tables, comparing, writing essays, and everything else we do to apply to college, it was finally time to sit back, cross my fingers, and anxiously wait. Here I'd like to share the hefty amount of resources that I used to stay organized and on top of things throughout my college search.

How To Organize the College Search

  1. Create a folder: It can be both a physical and a digital folder. I keep a digital folder with all of the information and documents I've received from colleges. In that folder, I have downloaded brochures, courses, spreadsheets, and my application information. You can use a physical folder for content you get from the mail. It might be easier to sort everything by the school and use different colors to identify each section.
  2. Make an excel sheet: For me, this step is crucial. You'll probably end up making a few sheets for different aspects of the process. For instance, I have around 3 sheets: the first one is where I placed all of the universities I was interested in and looked for their stats, location, courses, etc.…(I'll talk more about this later*).
    The second one is for the essays I needed to write for the colleges. Here I included the prompts and their respective due dates. Please remember to check the Common App and the college's page to verify the dates. The third sheet is for college application decisions. It's where I keep decision dates, resolutions, and additional comments.
  3. Follow a schedule/to-do list: Make a schedule with all the necessary due dates and goals for when you want to have something done. This will help you organize your day, week, or month and keep track of the work you've accomplished and the work you're missing.

How to Know Which College is Best for You

  1. Research: This is extremely important! Make a list of aspects you'd want to see in a school: location, diversity, activities/places you'd like visiting (museums, galleries, forests…). Also, know where you're aiming: Do you want to stay near home? Are you interested in highly selective schools? And look for schools that align with what you intend to study as that'll make deciding easier. When you have your list, research each school in-depth and find niche things about them that may attract you.
  2. Refer back to those excel sheets: Make a sheet that lists all the schools you're interested in and include (not in any particular order): location, class size, campus size, tuition, acceptance rate, graduation rate, financial aid, programs of interest, degrees, types of research opportunities, and anything else you want to include.
  3. Use the internet: There are many resources out there (like Fastweb: Top 15 Mistakes to Avoid in Choosing a College and Picking Colleges like Seashells). Let's say that you were accepted to five universities, but you're not sure where to go. Check for videos on YouTube by typing in the school and seeing what comes up. This is an excellent way to hear other perspectives and pros/cons from people that actually study at the university.
You can also check out these pages: Domonique Cynthia: This YouTuber has a lot of series about college. One of them is 73 questions with university students, where she travels to different universities and interviews students from that school. KathPath: Makes videos of the application process and has a lot of information regarding writing essays, how the admissions process works, content about Stanford and UC schools, etc...

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