Surviving the College Search: The Adventure Begins
You seem to have more and more mail from colleges every day. Your classmates keep talking about test scores and acceptance rates. Distant relatives and total strangers seem to take delight in asking you what college you plan to attend. Let's face it—it's time to start your college search.
If those words strike terror in your heart, you're not alone. Many students feel overwhelmed at the beginning of their college search. After all, you'll be making perhaps the biggest decision of your life so far. No pressure there!
To make your college search a little less intimidating, here are some strategies for getting started—and a preview of what to expect.
Most students assume that the college search begins with a guidebook, an Internet site, or a college fair. But the best place to begin is with yourself.
"The very first thing I encourage [students] to do is to 'soul search'—sit down and make a list of all the things they know about themselves," says Joyce Luy, director of admission at Westmont College (CA).
Start with the obvious: What do you like to do? What do you hate to do? What subjects (academic or not) make you sit up and take notice? What totally bores you? What are you good (or not-so-good) at? For example, you might love to write poetry and play soccer, but history bores you and you're not that great at baseball. Or there's nothing you like to do better than to discuss politics, but you zone out when the conversation turns to music or computers.
Once you have a list of your basic interests and abilities, start thinking about more complicated issues. How do you learn best—by listening, discussing, reading, doing? Do you enjoy being part of a large group, or do smaller groups suit you better? Do you seek out diversity among your friends, or would you rather hang out with people that are very similar to you? Are you more comfortable in the city or in a rural or suburban environment? Do you want to stick close to home or move far away? Is there a particular geographical area you're most interested in? You can probably think of other questions to consider, or ask your guidance counselor for more help.
Jot down short answers to these and other questions. Then "translate" your answers into things you'd like to see in a college. For example, that soccer-playing, poetry-writing, history-hating student above would probably want a college with a good English program and an opportunity to play varsity or intramural soccer. (Even if this student has a major other than English in mind, he or she might want to take a few poetry or writing classes as electives.) Similarly, if you love lively discussions, you should probably look for a college that encourages that kind of classroom discussion.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. © 2008 National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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