How To Plan Your College Search: Tips for Researching College Admission, Financial
Aid and More
You're planning for college in all that spare time you have. Right? No. In the real
world, you've got homework to do, after-school commitments to attend, a sport or instrument
to play, maybe a job and, oh yeah, a social life. So how are you supposed to keep
your college search and applications on track?
"The most important thing is to be proactive," says Michelle Rogers, an admission
counselor at Saint Louis University. "It's a daunting process, and every school does
things differently, but that doesn't mean that it has to be frustrating." So where
should you start?
Organize Your College Search
If you're still a few years out from college, start narrowing your choices now. Campus
size and location, a university's rankings and even how much it costs to go there
aren't likely to change dramatically. Research important admission deadlines and remember: it pays to be first, sometimes literally. There are often scholarships
or financial aid available for people who submit college applications early.
Technology to the Rescue
Countless free apps or even Google Calendar can keep your deadlines (and the rest
of your life) running right on track. Watch videos about your top colleges online,
take an interactive tour or research majors and programs.
While you're online, start a universal to-do list. Another document should track the
places you've applied, dates and any passwords. Leave a spot for notes; there will
be lots to remember after campus visits.
Get Help From Your Family
Your parents can't (and shouldn't) do everything for you, but you can ask them for
their advice. How did they decide where they wanted to go to college? What do they
think of your top picks? How much financial assistance can they give you? Bring a parent, grandparent or sibling on your college visits.
Fill them in on crucial admission deadlines so they can put reminders on their own
calendars and give you some accountability.
The College Search Takes Time
Make time for your college search by scheduling a few hours each week to work on it.
First, review your calendar and to-do list to see what deadlines and important dates
are coming up. What's urgent? Then spend some time on a longer term task, like comparing
majors or researching financial aid options. Break up big, daunting tasks into smaller components that are easier to manage.
You'll find the perfect school for you the same way you succeed in anything else:
research, ask questions, focus on your goal.
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