Juniors, here are a questionnaire and a timeline to guide you to finding your perfect college.
by Martha Green Quirk, M.A.
High school juniors…lend me your ears…and get ready for the ride of your life! It’s now January of your junior year, your second semester, and the time has come for you to start your college search. How does this happen?
First, think about this all-important question: Why are you going to college in the first place?
Here are some good reasons to consider:
● To learn – In college you will learn more about stuff that will help you be a better contributor to your community, your home and family, and to your own life. College will help you become a better thinker. College will reinforce analytical, comprehension, writing and reading skills. College will help you further develop your intellectual curiosity.
● To get a better job – Studies have shown that the average college graduate earns more than 1.5 million dollars more than a high school graduate over the course of a lifetime.
● To break away from home – This is a natural rite of passage to adulthood. Going to college is a great way to transition to an independent lifestyle, for learning how to take responsibility for every decision you make – choosing courses, managing money, doing (or not doing) laundry, choosing your friends, and embracing values and standards that are important to you. Going away to college makes the process of breaking away from home more complete.
The first step in your college-search research is to find colleges that “fit”—fit your personality, your educational goals, your earned academic record, your priorities, and your dreams. General factors such as size, location, climate, academics, faculty, class size, student body diversity, housing, meal options, facilities, extracurricular activities, athletic opportunities, off-campus programs, and tuition costs are important to consider.
Question yourself to find your fit
Here are some common questions students consider during their college search. Remember that what you are looking for is a college that “fits” your learning style, your college-characteristic preferences, and your educational objectives…and, eventually, your (or your parents’) pocketbook.
Be honest about who you are and what you want and need. Who are you as a student? As a social being? As a community participant? As a campus contributor?
Think honestly about your strengths and weaknesses. Where do you excel? What makes a class enjoyable for you? What do you do if you are not doing well in a class? What kinds of classes are the easiest and most fun for you to participate in? What kind of relationships do you like to have with your teachers for you to do your best?
How about these questions: What would you like to be doing five or 10 years from now? Is that a reasonable goal? What kind of environment would you like to be working in? Are you a leader or a follower? How independent are you? How do you demonstrate that independence? How dependent are you on others? Do you want to be with others at college who are more like you or who are different from you?
How active are you socially? What do you like about your social life that you want to continue in college? Are you willing to try new things in college or hang out with different types of people? How about going to a college you’ve never heard of before? How close to home do you want to be?
Your college-search timeline
Here is a general timeline to get the search ball rolling:
1. Determine the kind of college you think you want: liberal arts college, large research university, a public school or private college, a technical/trade school, a military academy, or a junior or community college.
2. Write, call, or email colleges that interest you to get further information about visiting, scholarships, and academic programs.
3. Use the internet to visit college websites (www.nameofcollege.edu) and learn about academic offerings, athletic opportunities, housing and meal options, what the campus looks like, events on campus, etc. This is a good way to begin your journey to learn more about different college campuses.
4. By June of your junior year, narrow your college choices to 10-12 possible options.
5. After further research and visits to some campuses between April and October, decide to which five to eight colleges you want to apply.
6. Begin the actual application process by October of your senior year.
7. Be alert to each college’s application, scholarship, and financial aid deadlines.
8. Make the final choice among those colleges to which you are accepted. Submit your deposit by May 1 of your senior year.
Have fun with this process. Be focused, determined, and organized. The results will be amazing!
Martha Green Quirk, M.A., has been active in the college admissions field for over 30 years, including many years as dean of admissions at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. In 2008 she founded her own independent educational consulting company, College Admissions Consulting (CAC), in St. Louis, Missouri.