I did the whole college admissions process myself, way back when. It worked for me then, so I wanted to share it with you now.
- Start with the size of your school, specifically the number of students in your grade. How does that feel to you? Do you want to go smaller, larger, or stay the same? This can point you in the direction of the size of the school. Not sure? No problem. Visit schools of different sizes to see how that feels.
- Where do you live: rural, suburban, or urban? Do you have strong feelings of wanting to live in a similar setting or try something drastically different?
- How far away do you want to go from home? 1 hour? Across the country? Somewhere warm? Near a beach? It’s ok not to know.
- Do you have a very specific type of program that you MUST DO? Art school? Performing arts as an actor, musician or dancer? Film director? Business? Even if you are headed this way, would you consider a program in this field within a college or university?
- Would you consider single-sex school or Historically Black College (HBC)?
- Make a list of your top priorities in a college. Take that list with you for each college visit and check off what it has and doesn’t have.
Answering these five questions can give you some parameters of types of schools to explore through college visits. Not knowing is fine too. These are questions that you can answer as you visit schools.
- Visit a range of schools near you even if you are not interested in applying there. The rationale is that you can get a sense for a type of school (hard no, hard yes, maybe), and then you can use this information to widen your search geographically. Attend an info session, event, or go on a campus tour. If you can’t get to the campus in person, try a virtual tour.
- Keep notes including photos of each school visit. They will start to blur together quickly. Use your checklist of top priorities in a college. The notes should include your reaction to the school. What did you notice? What did you like and dislike? What things surprised you? What programs mentioned caught your attention? Once it comes time to submit your applications, you will have a helpful list to reflect back on and evaluate your fit at each school.
- Get advice from peers, siblings, family members, older students, older siblings of friends.
- Keep visiting schools! As you hone in on schools based on geography, size of the school, type of school, etc., visit a range of schools in terms of acceptance rate.
- Find the right fit for you. It might be an instant gut feeling the minute you arrive on campus like love at first sight. It might be a pro/con list as you weigh several schools that have made your cut.
Finding the right college is a journey and an exploration of possibilities. While it can be a busy and stressful time, I hope you all are taking time to take a deep breath and enjoy this process.
I’m sharing our college visit videos here. It’s my visual diary to try to help my daughter keep track of the school visits. My oldest daughter’s art college videos are here.
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
2 thoughts on “Applying to College: How To Select Colleges”
I remember my high school counselor was trying to push me towards single sex colleges and I thought she was nuts, but in retrospect I wish I had seriously considered them. I think I would have done well in that environment, and I now completely understand why she thought they might be a good option for a quiet academic girl.
We noticed how helpful it is to get the vibe of the school by visiting. You really do get a feel for the priorities of the school’s culture in just a few hours. I was surprised by how much we could glean.