Finding the right college does not have to be difficult. It does take work in figuring out what kind of school is the right fit for you. What is a "good" college for you may not be a "good" college for someone else, and vice versa. Be sure you take some time to think about who you are, what you value, and what your educational goals are before choosing a school.
Although the process of finding and applying to colleges may seem complicated, there are really just 4 key steps:
Step 1: Prepare
Preparing for college begins in 9th grade. Every class you take in high school and every semester grade you receive will appear on your transcript. Colleges and universities will use your transcript as an indication of what kind of student you are. One of the best ways to make yourself attractive to colleges it to enroll in honors and Advanced Placement classes. These classes show that you are willing to challenge yourself and work hard in school.
We also recommend all students interested in attending college take 4 years of English, mathematics, science, and social science. Almost all colleges and universities also like to see 2-4 years of a world language.
Step 2: Search
For most of you, the college search process has already begun--even if you don't realize it yet! Any time you hear the name of a college or something about that school, you are essentially conducting your college search. Most students begin a more directed and purposeful college search during sophomore or junior year. The search process involves 2 key components: investigating schools and making contact.
For more information about the college search process, including resources available to students and families, please visit our Search for Colleges page!
Step 3: Apply (to schools AND for financial aid)
During the summer before senior year and early that fall semester is when we recommend students begin applying to colleges. Many schools have a November 1st application deadline, so the sooner you begin your applications the better!
Most college applications require you to fill out an online form, submit transcripts and SAT/ACT scores, and possibly have teachers and counselors send letters of recommendation on your behalf. You may also be required to submit an essay as part of your application. (You will work on your personal statement in your senior year English classes at the start of the schoolyear.)
For a timeline of college applications and other important resources, please visit our Applying to College page!
Applying for financial aid is a large part of the college application process. Most students in the United States receive the majority of their aid for school by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To review financial aid information please visit our Financial Aid and Scholarships pages.
Step 4: Choose!
The last step in the process is to finally choose a college or university. Choosing a school usually involves responding to the school's acceptance letter either by mail or online and submitting a small deposit on your tuition. Schools will also send you a financial aid package sometime in the spring semester to assist you in making your decision.
You have until May 1st to make your final decision. Remember, going somewhere just because your friends are going there or your parents went there might not be the best option. Consider what you want out of a school and which college best fits that vision.