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A lot of students start junior year not entirely sure what they want in a college. By the time they reach the start of senior year, they need to know. The summer before senior year and that school year itself will be full of college applications, essays, letters of recommendation, and financial aid paper work. To make this process go more smoothly, students should try to have their list of colleges just about ready before senior year starts. This means that the summer prior to 11th grade and junior year itself are the time for figuring out what a student wants in a college and writing a list of places to apply to. While some students have had their dream school picked out for years, others approach the process with a completely blank slate. If this is you, you might be overwhelmed, wondering how to narrow down the thousands of available options.

A great place to start is on any college campus. An even better place to start would be on three college campuses. You can make life easy on yourself by touring three campuses close to where you live. There is no need to travel far, you’re just looking for things you like and things you don’t like. Indeed, knowing what you don’t want is just as helpful as knowing what you do want!

So which colleges should you start with? You should aim for three distinctly different options: one large, one mid-sized, one small. At least one of the three should be private and at least one public. One could be a city campus with others being in small towns or rural areas. In short, you should try to see as much diversity in options as possible.

When planning these visits make sure to sign up to take the official tour. This will give you a chance to see classrooms, dorms, and cafeterias as well as to ask questions about majors, campus culture, and graduation rates. You should take careful notes on what you like- if you don’t write it down, you’ll likely forget it!

After the three colleges tours are done sit down a write a list of “must haves” for a college. Are small class sizes a “must” or a “never”? What major or majors must be available to you? Must the campus be bustling or quiet, city or country? Once you get all of your “musts” on a list start doing research on schools in your desired geographic area. You’ll find that it’s much easier to narrow down your possibilities now that you know what you want!

If you want help with this process reach out and let us know- we’d love to work with you as you get ready for college!
Michal Strawn