Finding the Right School

When you search a college, you probably feel that your entire future career, not to mention four years of your life, is riding on this decision. Everyone from your parents to your teachers probably has an opinion about where you should go and what constitutes a good school. Many books and magazines that announce college ranking systems can make you feel as if you should attend whichever school is placed highest on a famous list.

There’s no way to de-stress the college search experience entirely. But you can make it easier on yourself. The most important thing is to find the right place for you, the school where you’ll fit in, flourish, and grow. You wouldn’t let your family or a magazine choose your next boyfriend or girlfriend. Letting them choose your college might not be such a wise move.

Let’s start finding the right school! How do you begin your school search for the best one for you? Here’s how to narrow your search for finding the right school.

  • List your criteria. Imagine your ideal school. What would it look like in terms of academic program, location, cost, size, reputation, extracurricular, campus life, etc?
  • Talk to your guidance counselor, friends, and family. Your counselor will give you input on your school search. She or he will also help you with the transcripts, recommendations, and other essentials you’ll need for your application. You can also ask the people you respect for guidance. You don’t have to take their entire advice, but you should take it into account.
  • Request school information. Go online or call admissions offices for school information. Narrow your options a little before requesting information packets, unless you want to be inundated with paper. Your school will probably host admission events. Go to them, talk to the school admissions officer, and take a brochure.
  • Refine your choices. Divide your list into three categories:
    • Dream schools: they are a reach, but you’d be so psyched if you got in.
    • Target schools: they’re a great match for you, based on your specs including test scores, grades, and activities.
    • Safety schools: they’ll almost certainly accept you, and you wouldn’t mind going to them if you did get in.
  • Stay organized. You’re going to get a large number of documents from a large number of people. Keep your files up to date. Throw out stuffs you don’t need. Refine your system as things come in.
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