Cast a wide net when considering college choices

08/20/2014 12:00 AM

08/19/2014 12:41 PM

Senior year of high school is one of invaluable memories but also, quite possibly, a lot of stress.

It’s fleeting, and while you’re just now in your first weeks, before you know it, you’ll be attending your commencement ceremony. Within that time frame, though, you’ll be applying to colleges – an important step that will critically affect your future.

Here, then, are some college search tips for rising high school seniors from a recent high school graduate – me.

First of all, don’t limit yourself. Explore various colleges, and don’t limit your search because of location or other factors. College offers the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, so take full advantage of that but ensure your choice is a college you can picture yourself at for the next four years.

Don’t base your college decision on its “price tag” – worry about finances later. There are numerous grants, scholarships and student loans that can assist in paying for college, so what’s important is that you select a college to suit your personality and needs.

Even if you’re undecided about your major, search through the majors list of the colleges you plan to apply to. Make sure that the college offers the major you may be interested in. Even if you already have plans for your major, still browse through the list to see that the college offers majors you may consider switching to, if needed. Researching now can save a lot of time and hassle in the future in case you have to transfer because your college does not offer the major you later decide to pursue.

Make contacts

Talk to students who attend the college you are interested in. Especially consider contacting friends who have graduated and are attending the college. Even if you do not have any personal contacts at the college, ask either a college’s student tour guide or some type of student body representative. Current students offer more accurate answers regarding the student experience than an admissions officer can provide.

For questions other than the student experience, contact the college directly. Either call or email the admissions staff, which easily can answer your questions. Also, when calling, remember to ask the name of the person you talked to, for future correspondence!

Create a list or perhaps a type of chart. After performing extensive research, it’s easy to confuse colleges, so jot down some notes. Take note of specifics that interest you, some basic facts about the college, admission statistics, special programs, and even financial-aid packages.

Keep deadlines in check! With homework and projects due, it’s easy to forget about deadlines, so print out a calendar and highlight deadline dates or set reminders on your smartphone. Applications will be due at various dates, and during the process, there will be numerous other forms due. It’s important to meet those deadlines to avoid compromising your admission chances.

Estimate costs

Also remember to use each college’s net price calculator. Although it does not provide definite figures, the net price calculator provides an estimate of what you might have to pay based on your family’s income. Most net price calculators also provide details about the financial-aid package and break down the total cost and allocate certain amounts that will be potentially paid by various sources such as grants, federal work study, loans and so forth.

One of the most important resources during your college application process will be your high school counselor. I credit my high school counselor with helping me to complete my applications and making sure I ended up at a college I most certainly can see myself at for four years. So don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment and ask for assistance; that’s what they’re there for, after all! High school counselors can alleviate a lot of the tension during the application process, can answer a variety of your questions and can direct you to numerous scholarships and scholarship search sites!

Above all, don’t lose yourself in the college application process. It undoubtedly becomes stressful, but it’s important to remember to enjoy yourself, as well. This is your senior year, the last year to create valuable high school memories, and the last year you will be spending time with the people you’re used to seeing every day.

Cherish this year and its memories, remind your friends of how important they are to you, and thank your school staff and other mentors who have helped you thus far.

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