The college search, selection, and application process is one of the most important projects every student will complete during high school. Enough has been written about the process to fill a shelf in most bookstores.
In any good college guide, you will find, near the start, a section concerning fit. While it should always have been the case, today more than ever before the goal of the process is to find the school that is the best fit for a student’s particular academic, social, athletic, and personal needs and goals.
There are many elements in the application process, which can make it seem overwhelming at times. With the proper planning and ownership of the process, however, a student should have no trouble completing his or her applications successfully.
The foundation of the process, which students should always keep in mind, is that the student should own the process. In practice, this means: a) students should be the primary users of college search engines and college guides (parents can certainly help); b) students should fill out the actual applications; and c) students should make all contacts with prospective colleges (questions, campus tour reservations, and interview appointments). Simply put, students should take the lead in everything that happens.
The process is best viewed as consisting of three distinct, but ultimately related, parts: search, selection, and application.
The sophomore and junior years should focus on the search, the first investigative step. The purpose of this step is to investigate schools to find those that are the best fit. (The selection and application processes happen later, once the student has taken at least one admissions test, finished the junior year, talked to school counselors and other people, and perhaps even visited campuses.)
A good place to start is with the Internet. Some recommended search engines include: Big Future, College Navigator, and College Raptor.
There are other resources as well, such as the school’s college counselor; college representative visits to the high school; college fairs, websites, emails, and mailings; and friends and relatives who will be unbiased and honest.
Finding the right fit takes effort on a student’s part. Students need to know something about the colleges, of course, but they also need to know about themselves, perhaps in ways that are different from how they’ve previously thought about themselves or their future.
Recommended reading: Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, by Frank Bruni.
Jeff Coray, Director of Counseling, Damien High School