Starting the college search process can be overwhelming so here are some ideas on how to get started. One thing to remember is that this is YOUR college search so to make sure you pick the right school, no one else should do it for you. The key to success is simple: you need to do your homework and get started early.    

First off, you need to decide what you want in a college.  Here are five tips to help you do that.

  1. Meet with your counselor to discuss your education and career goals and how you can achieve them.
  2. Discuss finances with your parents, set some basic perimeters of what you can afford and begin to research scholarship opportunities to help offset the difference. 
  3. Dig through that stack of mail and e-mails from colleges to start considering your options and save the ones you’re interested in.
  4. Ask yourself some questions to find out what you really want: a small campus? Close to home? Specific major?  
  5. Start a College Wish List to help define your search and prioritize what’s most important to you.
  6. Go to a College Fair where you can collect literature, talk to admission representatives and feel like you've officially started the search process.

At this point you should have an idea of what you want in a college, so now it’s time to start researching where these colleges are.  Here are five tips to help search for your college.

  1. Make a shopping list of any school you’d like to attend.  Don’t limit yourself at this point – include each and every school you’re considering.
  2. Surf college's websites to get basic information, such as admission requirements, majors and sports offered. If you’re still interested, request information. 
  3. Visit campuses, even ones you’re not interested in, as a way to finetune your search and help focus in on what’s most important. 
  4. Create a short list of the type of schools you are interested in. Do additional research on the website: take a virtual tour, view courses offered, contact the admission office and review the financial aid options.
  5. Talk to friends and family who attended these schools and ask questions about their college experience.  Everyone has tips to share and it’s always helpful to learn about a school first-hand.

As you go through the college search process, remember that you don’t need to find the ONE perfect college for you. Having your heart set on one college is risky and may leave you with limited options if you don’t get accepted.  Instead, look for several colleges in which you can be happy and do well and apply to those. Before you know it, you’ll be sending off applications and deciding which offers to accept!