You may have heard it said before that applying to college is a “process,” and it really is. Additionally, every student’s process is different. However, there are some typical stages a student may go through to find their ideal college, and in this blog we outline them for you.
We recommend that students seriously begin the college process during their junior year. If students or families are college-focused, there are things freshman and sophomores can do, but they mostly revolve around earning strong grades and getting involved in activities. Toward the middle of junior year, students can kick- off the college process by determining what qualities they want in an ideal college. Students should consider size, location, major, and other factors to create an initial list of schools.
During the next stage of the process, students will research potential colleges online, in books, through campus visits and other ways. By learning more about colleges, students can determine which schools they really like and which ones they don’t. They can also determine which criteria are more important than others (ie, “It’s really important to me that the school has an equestrian program, so I’ll look at schools smaller than I initially wanted.”) During this stage, it’s important that students verbalize their goals and be realistic about their expectations. It’s also helpful when families plan college visits and attend college-sponsored information sessions.
When it comes time to apply to colleges, the stress level can be at an all-time high. Deadlines, essays, resumes, interviews... the list goes on and it can be a lot for a student to manage alone. Parents, school counselors, admission counselors and college counselors are all helpful resources to help students during this time.
At some point, hopefully earlier rather than later, families need to have a conversation about the cost of college and how to pay for it. Honesty is the best policy; parents should let students know what their realistic options are. Students may need to add less expensive colleges to the list, apply to schools where they are likely to receive a grant, and/or apply for scholarships.
The final stage of the process is usually the favorite one, but it doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Once a student has (hopefully) a few acceptances to various colleges, the family needs to sit down and weigh the pros and cons of each school. Sometimes it’s an easy decision, but occasionally it’s really difficult. Families need to have these discussions and come up with a decision that everyone is happy with.