High School Juniors are poised to begin the college selection process. This is a long (and sometimes drawn out) process. We recommend that families break it down into three distinct phases:
1) Exploration –this is the time to consider where you would like to attend school, what you will study, and what your goals are. Do you prefer the city over a rural setting? Would you like a traditional liberal arts curriculum or would you prefer a professional program and do you understand the difference? Would a large (over 10,000 students) school be your first choice or would you enjoy a small (less than 5,000 students) school?
This is the time to ask these kinds of questions and find schools that fit your goals.
2) Application Completion –completing the many forms, writing your college essay, sending in transcripts, recommendations, activities resume, and interviewing–all in a timely fashion.
3) Decision Making–comparing all of your positive outcomes. Taking a look at your academic, professional, co-curricular, and affordability goals and choosing the school that most closely meets your criteria.
Students and families should be prepared to do the lion’s share of the work in the exploration phase. By encouraging students to frontload their efforts in this process, they will become empowered and engaged in their educational future. This leadership role combined with good decision making skills will transfer favorably once on a college campus. This will give new college students the confidence to engage positively in their new environment.
The exploration period is the time to focus not only on academic and professional goals, but also on how your family will finance this costly investment. The exploration period should include an honest discussion among family stakeholders about paying for college. One strategy is to research and apply to a range of schools that offer a variety of financial opportunities. For example, we suggest students apply to at least one state school (we are based in NY which has 64 state campuses and are a fabulous educational bargain) and a number of schools that offer academic merit scholarships (scholarships based on academic merit NOT financial situation).
Remember, you won’t get an academic scholarship if you don’t apply to schools offering academic scholarships.
Good luck and have fun exploring your options!