Originally published February 13, 2020
You're on the verge of starting a brand-new venture. Here are a few tips on how to check in with yourself and your goals along the way.
By Getting Organized
Opening and organizing your physical space is a healthy way to begin. Clear the clutter of the past and create opportunities for change. Let it be the kickoff to your college search and allow yourself time to think during this time. Take stock and note what you put away and what you keep close at hand. Toss or donate things that feel dated or connected to things that no longer serve you. Take the process a bit deeper by beginning to take inventory on yourself. As you do so, ask yourself:
What interests me most?
How do I learn best?
What do I enjoy?
How do I socialize with my friends?
What is my imagination telling me about my goals for college?
Be gentle yet honest with yourself while answering these questions, because learning to articulate your thoughts, needs, and wishes will help you to find your match in a college. Observe yourself and identify your inspirations and preferences. Take notes. Record and update a list of your accomplishments and think about what activities you will take with you.
By Making Decisions
Decisions come in a variety of forms, so be ready to say no, yes, huh? and maybe. Making a college choice is a personal decision. You will want to get to the bottom of all of the information that comes your way, weed through your options, and find the right set of possible colleges for you. Next up, you will want to evaluate a list of college/university criteria. A set of standards may include:
- admission requirements and degree of selectivity
- urban, suburban, college town, or other location
- size of the student population
- majors and minors
- public vs. private institution
- cost of tuition, room, & board
- financial aid offers
- campus labs
- libraries and other academic resources
- access to accommodations
- class size and teacher:student ratio
- graduation rate
- social life (such as Greek life and school spirit)
- housing options
- study abroad, internship, and other immersion programs
- varsity and intramural sports
You may have very specific interests to consider, such as a 3+2 engineering program at a liberal arts college or a music, theater, or dance program. In addition to finding the positives, keep in mind that saying NO can be a good start, because knowing what you don’t want is just as valid as knowing what you do want. Don’t want to go west of the Mississippi? Don’t want schools with a rugged winter? Making these kinds of choices will shape your list. Eliminating schools that do not fit into your framework and making small but clear decisions over time will add up to a list of schools that are a good match for you. Be confident in your choices and remember that you can change your mind. There is a learning curve to this college process, so feel good about yourself (see number 1) and identify and compile your preferences.
By Activating Your Support Team
Open the college discussion with your family, counselor, and teachers by sharing your college desires. Ask relatives and other adults about their college experience. You can also find assistance through resources such as college fairs, books such as The Fiske Guide to Colleges, school websites, individual college representatives and actual campus visits. Start by visiting a campus close to home. Go to the website and register for a tour and information session. Be open to the questions that are asked by others. Listen to the dialogue as new categories of information pop up, ones that you had not thought of before. Collect information about schools on your list as well as the search process in general. It won’t take long before you will have gained expertise in the college search business. You will know what is important to you and the questions to ask. Actively working these tips will help you build a list based on what’s important to you.
You’ll be an accomplished searcher before you know it. Ready to start? OK. Time to get organized!