SAT, ACT, GPA - these seemingly simple three-letter acronyms build up into lines of text in lengthy guidance office bulletins, textbooks and prep books that can outweigh your body by at least 10 pounds.
Junior year loads on the pressure for college, and you can easily feel it on piling on. Too light for you? Remember that you also have to actually decide what college you want to attend, and then you can get those extra 30 pounds of university packets. Perfect.
Searching for a college can be just as time-consuming as all the academics required to get into one.
I don’t mean to sound all doom-and-gloom. In fact, there are ways to handle it all. For this reason, students should plan early for this hunt and be sure that they do so with the right set of mind.
Here’s a strategy to follow that can help you with your college search:
The college search is more so a journey to find yourself than it is a journey to find a university.
Hone in on what really interests you. Contemplate your hobbies, extracurriculars, classes and personal life and see which parts you want to continue throughout your life, which parts you would hate most to give up. Even small interests could develop into something that you love.
Once think you have found that one passion, whether it be biology, politics or any other subject, pursue it by doing research, joining Model United Nations or trying any other sort of real-world application. These activities can indicate whether you really would want to continue to pursue that subject at the college-level and onward.
Wants, Needs and Sacrifices
You won’t ever find a college with the best of absolutely everything. Instead, you need to find out what your non-negotiables are and what you’re willing to live without.
A college about which you’ve heard positive comments might not even offer your intended major and would, therefore, be pointless to pursue. If you are really set on certain subject, look for the schools most highly ranked in that area.
Another major factor to consider is location. A school with all the academics you wanted might not be so appealing when you find out that you might have to trudge through two feet of snow to get to class. Some students need wintertime flurries, and some need a beach nearby.
Do you want to be close to family, or do you want to escape to a new environment? Don’t set your heart on a dream location, but any school that completely dissatisfies these needs should be put out of mind.
Having the right price is certainly another need; pricey colleges can leave student loan debts lingering for years. Check tuitions and fees and see what scholarships are available at each school.
Sometimes, when you find a school that satisfies these pertinent needs, you’ll have to abandon your less significant wants. Maybe a college doesn’t have quite all of the clubs or sports that you would like.
However, you have to assess just how important these things are to you. Don’t let the prospect of dropping a few activities or not having your favorite restaurants nearby mark a school off of your list.
Visiting sites, like Fastweb, helps tremendously to discover what each school offers. Take advantage of a variety of sources online, in college ranking books and at your high school guidance office.
The summer after sophomore year provides an excellent opportunity to visit schools. Junior year academics tend to be tough, so make sure that you plan any trips during the school year far ahead of time.
Truly experiencing schools is more likely to give you an idea of them than staring at them on a computer screen. Get as much as you can out of each trip by attending lectures, walking around campus and asking admissions officers any questions you have.
You’ve made it this far, so take the time to enjoy your time there too! Take a break from schoolwork and think of visiting schools as a privilege, not a chore.
Searching for colleges can be one of the most stressful parts of your high school career.
However, if navigated properly, the search will become one of your favorite parts. Plan how you want to pick the right school because an aimless search is guaranteed to be an unenjoyable one.