Kick Off Your College Research This Summer With These 5 Tips
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No matter what grade you are in during high school, you should be thinking about where you would want to attend college. Once college applications season starts, you’re going to need to create a final college list, apply to college, and actually make those college decisions, all in the span of a few months. Until that happens, your primary focus is on researching colleges and getting a feel for the different options that you have.
This may seem a daunting task since there are thousands of colleges to choose from, spanning all over the country and specializing in different academic disciplines. Researching all of your college options can involve hours, even days of research. Luckily, CollegeVine has put together some of our top tips for using your summer to really jumpstart (if you haven’t already) your college research.
Before You Start, Do Some Introspection
When you go to a library, you don’t search every shelf looking for a book that you might like. You usually have some specific tastes and preferences in mind that narrow down your search. In the same way, you shouldn’t start looking at colleges by browsing every possible option. You should first figure out what qualities and characteristics you want in a college so that you can narrow down your decision from there.
Figuring out what you want in your college experience requires a bit of soul-searching on your part. Here are some things that you ought to try and figure out before you start researching colleges:
- What geographic location do you want your future college to be located in?
- What field of study would you want to pursue? You don’t necessarily need to have your major narrowed down, but you should at least have any idea of which academic department you may want to study in.
- What kind of student are you? Do you thrive in a competitive environment with thousands of other students, or do you like smaller class sizes with more individualized attention? You’ll find that many colleges offer one or the other but not both.
Start With a Simple Google Search
After your brief time of introspection, you should have a basic idea of what you’re looking for in a college. Using those criteria, you can do a simple online search of which colleges meet the criteria that you’re looking for.
It’s important to note that you may still have a substantial number of colleges to choose from even after you’ve narrowed down your search. At that point, you ought to start looking at the website and online presence of each college individually and see how well you identify with the college’s values and mission. From there, you can eliminate college options based on how each college markets themselves online.
There are a number of factors that could be deal breakers in terms of making it onto your college list. For example, you may find that a certain college has everything you’re looking for in terms of academic programs, climate, location, etc., but it may turn out to be a very expensive private college that your family may not be able to afford. Other possible deal breakers include the importance of athletics on the campus, whether the campus is religiously affiliated, the cost of attending the campus, whether it’s a private or public school, the college’s rankings, etc.
See Whether You Meet Their Criteria
Once you know which colleges have met your criteria, you need to narrow down your search further by seeing if you meet their criteria. Most colleges have some statistics available regarding what SAT/ACT scores, GPA, class rank, and other criteria they expect their accepted students to have. If your grades and test scores meet a college’s requirements, then they can still be in the running for your final college list.
If your profile doesn’t match the college’s requirements, you can either consider retaking certain exams and trying to improve your grades, or you can take the college out of the running for your college list.
Schedule Some College Visits
Once you’ve narrowed down colleges using all of the criteria listed above, you are probably still going to be interested in a decent chunk of colleges. To get a better feel for what these colleges are really all about, you need to stop using the internet and start doing some outside research.
Pick a handful of colleges on the list that sound particularly appealing to you and schedule a time to visit those colleges and take an admissions tour. Summer is the perfect time to do this, as you won’t have to worry about missing school, and the campus will be relatively empty since class won’t be in session.
For more information about campus visits, see the following posts:
Another great way to learn more about colleges beyond what you can find on a website is to look within your community for people who have either attended or have connections to the colleges in question. These people have actually experienced life at that college and can give you the inside scoop on what it would actually be like to attend that university. Also, if this is a close friend or family member, they probably know you and could tell you whether they think you would be a good fit at that university.
For More Information
All in all, starting college research is pretty straightforward. If you take some time during the summer months, when you don’t have distractions like school and extracurriculars, to start your college research, you can go from a simple google search to a narrowed down college list in relatively short order. As long as you start your college research this summer, you’ll definitely be thanking yourself when it comes time to fill out your college applications.
Need help applying to college? Perhaps these previous CollegeVine Blog Posts can help!
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