Applying to college is no easy feat. It’s a lengthy process that starts well before your senior year of high school. It’s also a unique experience for every teen. While some may be 100% certain of where they want to attend, others aren’t even sure where to begin to look. No matter what camp you fall into, know that it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the process.
Not that you should take the decision lightly. Your final selection will impact your personal life as well as your future professional life. Of course, you can always transfer to another school if you decide that your first choice wasn’t exactly what you hoped for. That said, nobody wants to have to go through the admissions process twice if they can avoid it.
Whether you are just starting your search or finalizing your admissions essays, there are places you can go to find support. While the decision is yours, you are not alone in this path. Below we discuss three resources that will help your college admissions journey go smoothly.
1. Counselors and Consultants
One of the first places to seek support is your current guidance counselor. Whether you’re at a private or public high school, you likely are assigned a counselor. This individual is experienced in helping students just like you navigate the college process. They may have suggestions for colleges to look at or recommendations based on where other recent graduates have been accepted. Additionally, your counselor can assist with letters of recommendation and ensure you have everything you need for a complete application.
Similar to a counselor, a college admissions consultant can serve as your guide through the admissions process. They can suggest schools for you to apply to based on your interests and give you a leg up in the application process. If you’re unsure of what to write about for your essays, they are there for you to brainstorm with. If you need help studying for the SAT or ACT, they can create a study plan for you. No matter whether you’re entering senior year or just starting high school, these pros can provide tailored recommendations.
Both counselors and consultants want the very best for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you have any questions or concerns. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the process, ask for a meeting so you can plan the way forward together.
College Search Websites and Forums
While The Princeton Review, Fiske, and other reputable brands still publish annual college guides, the Internet is a good place to start your investigations. Google may be your first instinct, but there are specific college search websites that can be more beneficial. These sites will tailor results based on geographic location, school size, setting, academic profile, and more. Once you’ve narrowed down your criteria, many of them will recommend additional schools based on your selected interests and preferences.
With a solid list of colleges and universities in hand, you may turn to places like Quora or Reddit to get further insights. These forums are go-to destinations for students seeking first-person perspectives and advice on particular schools. They’re places where prospective students can connect and maybe even help each other out with the admissions process. You may learn something new about a certain school or the college journey in general that benefits you in your search.
Of course, be mindful of who is posting on these forums. You don’t know whether the person on the other side of the screen is exaggerating or outright lying. Furthermore, you don’t know their credentials or whether they have the most up-to-date information. If you have a particular question, ask your admissions consultant or the college itself. You’ll know you’re getting the correct answer and can proceed with your college search process confidently.
In-Person and Virtual Campus Visits and Tours
Campus tours give you a firsthand look at the colleges or universities you’re interested in attending. On a tour, you’re able to see for yourself where you will be living, eating, studying, and just hanging out. It’s a chance to visualize how life will look for the next four years and whether you think you’ll adapt to the new environment.
In-person tours allow you to speak with current students directly, as well as administrators, staff, and faculty. By going to the school, you can also explore the larger town or city. Some schools offer visit days where prospective students can tour the campus in groups. These days are more structured, but you may have a chance to learn more than if you scheduled an individual visit.
Of course, visiting a college in person isn’t always possible. You may be applying to so many schools that you have to prioritize which ones you want to visit. Or you may not have the resources available to make the trip. In such circumstances, virtual campus visits are a great option. They are accessible to everyone and can be done from the comfort of your own home. Thanks to the pandemic, many schools offer virtual tours as an option for potential students and their parents.
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” manual to the college admissions process. While there are a number of guides available to direct you, the process is what you make of it. You can give yourself enough lead time to research a number of schools, visit them, and put your best foot forward. Or you can leave the decision to the last minute and apply to a bunch of schools you have only heard vaguely good things about.
While the former approach will yield better results, there’s no doubt it takes more work. Fortunately, there are resources you can turn to regardless of where you are in the process.