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         By Steve Schuetz

One of the things we hear about college admissions is that, often, families wish they had started the process sooner. It takes time to build a strong college list, plan for appropriate courses, and start the college essay writing process. If you would like to contact us about getting started with the admissions process, please reach out. 

Congratulations, you’re a high school junior! While you may not know it now, the journey ahead of you is filled with wonderful possibilities. Embrace the unknown and dive right in. I realize that at first sight the college search process can be very intimidating, with thousands of colleges to choose from all over the country. Some you know about, others you’ve never heard of. How does one even go about sorting through all of the choices and build a list of schools that will be a good match for you? I’m glad you asked!

Fall of Junior Year

Before you even put one college on your list this fall, I think it’s helpful to give some thought about what you want to get out of your college experience and what factors are going to be important to you about the school. Do you want college to be an exercise in self-discovery or do you want to be laser focused on your chosen career? Do you want to stay close to home or travel across the country? What about the size of the school and the composition of the student body? You should also give thought to what kind of experience you want outside of the classroom (activities, sports, clubs). Also, take time to talk with your parents, guidance counselor, teachers, and friends about what’s important to you and ask them for their perspective and advice.

Once you have an idea of what you want your college experience to look like, it’s time to begin your research. There are a number of great online resources available to help you establish your initial list of schools. The College Board’s BigFuture website allows you to identify the attributes that are important to you to generate your initial school list. I recommend starting with 10 to 12 schools to keep it manageable. The best place to start your research is school websites to get an initial feel for the school, its academic programs, and student life. From there, check out social media sites for the student perspective. Be sure to keep notes on what you like and dislike on each of the schools on your list. As you learn more about what you like and don’t like, you will eliminate some schools and add others to your list.

Spring of Junior Year

The spring of your junior year is a great time to visit the colleges on your list. The campus visit is the best way to get a sense if the school is right for you. On the campus visit you’ll be able to engage with students and faculty and get a sense of what your experience could be like. Even if you can’t visit the school physically, colleges offer a number of virtual visit opportunities that allow you to interact with the

Summer Following your Junior Year

After you’ve vetted your initial college list, summer is a great time to begin to start solidifying the list of schools that you will be apply to. Evaluate each school based on what you want your college experience to be like. Take the opportunity to visit those schools that you couldn’t during the academic year. The goal is to have a near final list before you start your senior year so that you can begin to prepare your admission application materials before the start of the school year.

By planning out your year and giving the process the time and thought it deserves, building your college list can be a wonderful journey of self-discovery. Eventually you will build a list of schools that reflect your values and goals and you will ultimately find a college that is a great fit for you.

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