How to Conduct a College Search - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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College Admissions College Preparation
August 7, 2018

How to Conduct a College Search

The college selection process can be a difficult, stressful time for everyone involved. High school seniors worry about one of the biggest decisions—if not the biggest decision—they will make in their young lives, and parents are sending their kid off “on their own” for the first time. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to make this process less stressful. Here are some tips that can help kickstart your journey to a smooth college selection.

Take the SAT or ACT early

This experience is one of the more stressful ones for high school students –  an hours-long test after hours of preparation. Taking this exam early not only gets it out of the way, but it can let you know where you stand with academic scholarships and college acceptances. It also allows you to retake it to try to improve your score. Many colleges have cut-off scores, so if you are close after one test, you have the opportunity to retake it, and this time you will have a better idea of what to expect.

Apply to schools early

You don’t want to procrastinate in applying for schools. Applications aren’t incredibly lengthy documents, but trying to do 5-10 of them in one day at the end of your senior year of high school will add an unnecessary bit of stress to your life that you can avoid. Also, many colleges with applications fees offer a lower price for early applications, so applying early will save you money and will reduce stress. Getting an early acceptance usually puts you in a better position for financial assistance from the college or university as well.

Fill out your FAFSA

In 2014, $2.9 billion in federal aid went unused, and 47% of high school graduates did not fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In other words, many students and parents could have had some of their college bills paid had they filled out the FAFSA. Definitely prioritize FAFSA; get it done and you could save thousands of dollars.

Apply to scholarships

Here’s another financial hack. There are so many scholarships out there for which students can apply, and a lot of them go unnoticed. Search for scholarships that apply to you, and go for it. Websites like www.fastweb.com are great sources for finding them. Some may require you to write a short essay or respond to some questions, but it is worth it. An hour spent on a scholarship application could save you a lot of money later on, and the only thing better than a great education is a great education that’s cheaper.

Research, research, research

Once you have a list of possible schools, do your research on each one. Look at the website, read about the courses, sports teams, residence halls and food, and familiarize yourself with the college as best as you can. You can’t be overprepared with knowledge about your future alma mater.

Visit campuses

After you’ve done some research, go get a hands-on feel for what the college or university is like. This might mean traveling to and/or spending the night on campus. You are making a big decision that you want to get right, so you really can’t simulate this one. Visiting a college will provide you with knowledge about a school that you won’t get anywhere else. You will get the vibe of the school during your visit and meet some of the people. This exercise activates your intuition… one of your important assets in making good decisions.

Talk with influential people

Meet with admissions counselors from colleges you are interested in when they visit your high school. They have valuable information they can share with you, and they can answer any questions you may have. And when you visit a campus, try to speak with professors and students who can offer their perspective as well.

Don’t stress about what your friends are doing

Choosing a college is your decision, first and foremost. You shouldn’t let what your friends are doing influence you in what you are going to do. College is about finding the school to best educate you and set you up for a successful career. That may mean you and your best friend go to schools thousands of miles apart, and that’s okay. Whether through Instagram, Skype, text messaging, phone calls, snail mail (the list could go on), we have tons of ways to keep in touch. Yeah, you may have to put in a little extra effort, but if you both are going to colleges you love, it will be worth it.

-Andrew Domencic ‘19