www.collegelab.orgYou've got to start somewhere.
In the college admissions journey, the first and most important stop is self-assessment. That's right. Look inside before you look outside. Get to know yourself. It's hard (read: impossible) to find a college that fits your needs and wants if you haven't thought about what you need, or what you want.
College Match, by Stephen Antonoff, is a concise workbook with valuable insights that we use regularly with students to better understand their wants and needs. If you're tired of working on paper, you can go online to BigFuture's Step-by-Step guide. You'll find a list of questions with interactive features. By the final screen, you'll have a list of criteria that will help you in the search for the colleges that "fit" your learning style and your academic interests, as well desired location, size, campus setting, and social alternatives. Now you're ready to begin.
News flash: you don't have to sift through reams of description and statistics, or mile-high piles of college brochures to find the right fit colleges. Phew! There are some really useful books that can help you find colleges that meet your criteria. Case in point: The Fiske Guide to Colleges. We love it.
Prefer something less like a phone book? CollegeLab is one of several online tools which can personalize the college search process. It's our favorite, but we're biased (Alicia is the CEO)! Search for "college search" and you'll get almost three billion hits. That's a lot, so we've narrowed it down for you. Simply visit any one of our favorite sites, enter the criteria from your self-assessment process (the most important step - did we say that already?), and voila, your college list starts to take shape.
One more thing. Start big. Think about a funnel, broad at the top and then gently narrowing, so that the fit is just right at the bottom. Your college search process should be the same. In order to come up with the best fit at the end, you need to start with a broad list. Keep an open mind.
What are our favorite sites for college search, you ask?
This list would not be complete without mentioning Naviance, Unigo and other fee-based, online service offered by some high schools to facilitate collaboration between student, school and parents on all aspects of the college admissions process. If you are fortunate enough to have access to one of these, use it! If not, you should be all set with the resources above.