Navigating the college research and application process may seem daunting at first, but it can be a meaningful learning opportunity if students time it correctly and break it down into its component parts. The process gives students the opportunity to reflect, engage in research, synthesize information, write, and have great conversations. But resist the temptation to start too early—this process is best begun in the middle of junior year. Once students have reached that point, they should take the following steps:
- Engage in rigorous self-reflection. Parents can prompt students with questions like: "How do you like to study? How do you spend your free time? What kind of people do you enjoy? Where in the world do you hope to be?" Evaluate what matters before you start thinking about university names.
- Once students know what they want, it's time to do some homework. They need to research each university carefully. At this point, families should ask: "Are you admissible? Would you be happy and successful at this school?"
- Work closely with the high school college counselor or university advisor. Students should ask lots of questions; this is, after all, their process. Do not hire an independent counselor unless your school lacks a counseling department—your school counselor should be able to provide all of the resources you need.
- Create a balanced school list—this means having at least two or three schools to which the student is likely to be admitted.
- Plan ahead. The summer before senior year is a great time to identify application deadlines and requirements. Then it's time to draw up a calendar for getting the applications and essays done. Make sure to leave time for revision on the planning calendar.
Most importantly, stay open-minded! There are thousands of universities out there, and every student will have wonderful options if they apply appropriately.
This article was written by Tina Forbush, Director of College Counseling.
- college application
- college counseling
- college research
- high school