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When and How to Start Your College Search

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To some students your junior year may seem far too early to begin your college search. With two years of high school left, it may seem like you have more than enough time. However, your junior year is actually one of the most important of your high school career. But it’s not just a question of when – how do you search for a college? How do you go about choosing something as important as where you’ll go to college? You’ll find a few tips below to help you get started.

  • Start early. As mentioned before, starting your college search early in your junior year is ideal. If you want to start even earlier, you can do that as well. So why start so early? It gives you enough time to thoroughly search for, choose and apply to schools. This isn’t a decision you should take lightly. It’s going to take some time to make difficult decisions.
  • Apply early. If you have your schools picked out, go ahead and apply through early admission. Applying in this select group may improve your chances of acceptance. If you don’t choose early admission and decide to apply with everyone else during rolling admissions, you should still get your application in as early as possible. Once you finish your application and submit it, only then can schools begin to review it. Being at the front of the pack may also improve your chances of admission. And as a bonus, knowing your applications are completed and submitted can be a huge stress reliever.
  • Start big. When you’re first starting to look at schools, consider plenty of options. Don’t just stick with the schools near your hometown or schools that your friends and family have attended. Don’t limit your options. There are thousands of schools in the country – and even plenty of good schools abroad – so do yourself a favor and look into as many schools as you can. You’ll begin to narrow down your choices soon enough.
  • Take the initiative. Attend any and all career or college fairs your school holds. Have some questions ready about any schools you may be interested in or programs you may be considering. The representatives from those schools are there to answer your questions, so don’t be shy. They will love talking about their schools and letting you know exactly why they think you should apply.
  • Scope out schools. Once you have your list narrowed down to your potential schools, start visiting campuses. While you can visit a campus anytime, try and attend one of the school’s formal events for prospective students. This way, you’ll be able to listen to the usual admissions presentation and enjoy a guided tour by a current student – as most schools will offer. You don’t have to limit yourself to just the official events though. Take some time after to walk around the campus by yourself and really get a feel for the school. You can even feel free to approach some other students on campus and ask them a few questions.
  • Research. There are two kinds of research you can do on schools that have piqued your interest. First, there are plenty of independent books and web sites that offer information about schools. These will give you plenty of official information about the school, but they may not give you an idea of the environment, type of people that attend, etc. You may want to employ another method of research. Take some time to look through the school’s official web site, read a few issues of the student paper, browse the course listings if they are available, etc. Doing this type of unofficial research may start to give you your own idea of how you feel about the prospective schools on your list. Plenty of people can tell you where they think you should attend, but ultimately the decision is yours to make.
  • Keep notes. Searching for and researching schools can be overwhelming. The best way to keep your mind sharp and to keep all the schools clear in your mind is to take notes as you go. Each time you research or talk to someone about a school, have a certain impression about something or visit a campus, you should take notes so you’ll remember specific details and what your honest impressions were.

Choosing which schools to apply to – and eventually which school to attend – is definitely an important process. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Remember to start early, take your time, weigh your options carefully and trust your gut when it’s telling you something. Your personal impressions about colleges is one of your most important tools to help you make decisions, but that doesn’t mean you should skip the research phase of the process. Being prepared and carefully weighing your options as you search will help you find the best college for you.

Test Prep Academy is the premier SAT/ACT services company for high school students. We offer instructional programs and curriculum for students preparing for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT. Learn more about how we help prepare students for the SAT.

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