Starting the College Search

The college search process is about you and your interests, so that is a good place to start. It is a good idea to make a very broad, inclusive list of schools and then eliminate ones that don’t feel like a good fit, rather than focusing on one or two and adding more as they occur to you. This process takes a long time, and your plans for the future might change, so think broadly and don’t necessarily eliminate a school just because it doesn’t fit your interests perfectly.

Here are four common questions that could guide your college research:

  1. Does the college offer what I want to study?
  2. What is the educational quality and experience offered by the school?
  3. What type of environment (academic and social) does the college offer?
  4. How much will it cost and can I afford to go there?

Try using the Search, Explore, Compare Process:

  • Search: This involves building a preliminary school list that will grow and shrink and grow again as you move through the other steps.
  • Explore: Here you'll gather as much information as you can about the schools you added to your list during the Search phase.
  • Compare: Finally, you'll do a side-by-side evaluation of the schools on your list to narrow down your choices. You might even find that you want to go back to the beginning and Search for more schools to Explore.

College Search Resources

The information you'll need comes from many sources. No one source can give you all the answers so use them all, keeping in mind what each offers:

  • Recommendations from friends, family, or school advisor: Advice from people you know and trust can be an excellent source for understanding what the school environment might be like and the value of a particular degree--educationally, socially and professionally. But remember: no one person will have all the answers for you.
  • Brochures and information from colleges: Materials that come directly from the college are the most authoritative source for costs, deadlines, and course offerings. However, they also reflect what the college imagines is most important to you and how the school wants to be perceived.
  • Print and web guides and directories: Guidebooks, college directories and websites help you sift through college options and the vast amount of data published about schools. Keep in mind that each resource has its own angle on what information is important.
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