In order to effectively Search for Colleges, you must Organize Your College Search.
You have begun the task of considering Colleges and narrowing them down to a manageable list of Potentials. Hopefully you are doing this with a College Counselor, and they are recommending resources to use. You are using those resources to educate yourself about potential Colleges, based upon your discussions of criteria. You will come back to the Counselor with your findings, which leads to more discussion and more narrowing. Even with a College Counselor, it’s important to be methodical and organized, so that you aren’t duplicating your efforts or losing track of what you have done and how you are feeling about what you are learning.
If you are not working with a Counselor, a good basic resource for learning about Colleges is the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Fiske is widely respected by College Counselors – it’s the book I see in their arms when they are meeting with a student. If you need helping finding other data resources, see Data Mining Resources.
There are many aspects to organizing the Search
Decide on General College Criteria for what you want in a College. This should include considering how your financial situation impacts what types of Colleges will offer you merit or financial aid.
- Track which colleges you have researched and through which resources you have mined that data. Here is a sample spreadsheet for Tracking College Resources Used.
- If you think you know the field of study you would like to major in, look for Colleges that have good reputations in that field. This spreadsheet tracks Colleges with Strong Writing Programs, for example.
- If you are planning on visiting many Colleges, you need to track who you met with on each campus. You might believe you will be able to keep track of this in your mind, but if you visit more than a couple of Colleges, you won’t. This spreadsheet is an example of how to keep track of your Spring Break College Tours.
- Organize the data. It’s hard to compare Colleges if you haven’t mined the same data for each College. I kept going to a new website and finding a new nugget of information that I wanted, which meant I had to go back and mine that information for each College I was researching. I also found myself adding potential Colleges to the list, and being frustrated when I had to figure out the sources for information, which I had sometimes failed to document. Be thoughtful in how you are going to research Colleges, then create spreadsheets to track your search.