The College Selection Process
 
Beginning the College Search

There are nearly 4,000 colleges and universities throughout the United States. Your first goal is to try to narrow down your search. Start by thinking about what you want to do after high school. The most important question is: Do I want to go to college? Why? What do I want to achieve? What are my options? Besides academics, what else am I interested in? Get involved in the decision making process. If you let others decide for you, you may not like the results!

Finding the Right College for You: Competitiveness: What percentages of students are accepted? What is the typical grade point average? Test scores? Class rank? If I am accepted to a very competitive college, will I be able to keep up with my classmates? All students need to formulate a plan A, B and C. Plan A is comprised of reach or dream schools. These are schools you would like to attend but are very selective in their admission practices. Plan B schools are those that accept many students that share similar grades and test scores. Plan C includes safety schools that have a high percentage of admission. Use college guidebooks or the Internet to find the most recent admission statistics.

Academic Programs: What colleges offer my major? Am I interested in more than one field of study? What study abroad opportunities are there? How do they help undecided students? Keep in mind that many students change their major after freshman year or are required to declare a major. Picking a school that has a wide variety of programs helps to prevent the need to transfer to another college.

Athletics: Do you want to play competitively in college? All Division I and Division II prospective student athletes should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. This website provides vital information regarding academic and amateurism certification. www.eligibilitycenter.org Or do you want to play less competitively at the club or intramural level?

Location: How far from home are you willing to drive? Fly? Does climate matter? Would you like to attend school in a city, suburb, college town, or rural environment? Do you love the energy a city has to offer? Are you a nature-lover who enjoys a more open setting?

Size: Do you like to know everyone and have everyone know you? Does the anonymity of a large school appeal to you? Do you learn better in smaller classes? Do you prefer the opportunities a larger school can bring?

Cost: This is very important to discuss before you start applying to schools. Ask your parents if they plan on helping with college costs. If they do, how much can they contribute? $10,000, $20, 000 or more? Discuss a budget for college. What can I afford on my own? How large of a student or parent loan is too much? Use a college cost projector to estimate how much college will cost when you are ready to enroll. What types of Financial Aid are available? How do you apply for scholarships, loans, or work study? The Free Application for Federal Student Aid can help you. Here is a 2016 "How to FAFSA" video.
Housing/Food: Check out the dorms and food choices when visiting a college. You will be living there for 9 months out of the year. How far do you have to go to eat? Is there a variety of dining places and food choices? What types of meal plans are available? How expensive are they? Do they offer vegetarian food? Kosher? Are you guaranteed housing for one year, two years or all four years? What does off-campus housing look like? Can you bring a car?

Activities/Clubs/Personality: What clubs and organizations are on campus? How active is the Greek life? Can you create a club if it doesn’t exist? Have there been any problems amongst the social clubs? What is the male/female ratio? What are the students really like? Is there an honor code? Do you have a special talent or skill? Look at the bulletin boards and read the school newspaper.
 
Support Services: Do they offer academic counseling? Visit their career center. Do they help students with resumes, internships, and job placement? What about personal or psychological counseling? How far is the student health center? Is there a hospital close by?

The most important advice is to find what’s best for you! College is your chance to grow not only academically but emotionally and socially as well. Pick a college that has many things that interest you, not just your major. What is the easiest way to find the right "fit"? Visit, visit, visit. Start by visiting local college campuses to help figure out your likes and dislikes. Keep a journal or blog of your visits. Immediately write down your impressions and answers to your questions. It is easy to forget once you leave campus. Colleges are not one size fits all.

Jean Whalen
Director of College and Career Counseling
Pine-Richland High School
Last Modified on August 25, 2016
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