High School 2 College

March 14, 2010

Spring Break Is Coming – Time to Think About College

Spring break is less than two weeks away for most high school juniors.  Now is the time to be thinking about college.  For some, the idea of attending college is exciting, a chance at a new beginning in a place far from the hometown that has grown too small.  For others, thinking about college is overwhelming, mystifying, even scary.

Still, if you want to be a college graduate some day, you’ve got to go to pick out a college, apply, get in, and go.

So what should I be doing now to get on the road to college?

The first step should be to meet with your guidance counselor if you haven’t already.  He should know you fairly well by now (you did remember to make friends with your guidance counselor early in high school and visit often, right?).  He knows which schools accept students with your grades/scores/activities.  He will probably show you Naviance, a program that records how many students that fit your profile were accepted by a given school.  Naviance, which high schools pay to make available to their students and which helps counselors submit information about students to colleges, is well-liked by guidance counselors but I haven’t found many students or parents who find it particularly useful.

The next step is get online. The best free website for choosing prospective colleges is Princeton Review.  You have to register, but it’s easy and it’s free.  Look for “Best Fit College Search” — it used to be called Counselor-O-Matic.  Answer all the questions as honestly as you can.  Make sure you answer questions from every category on the list on the left side of the survey page.  Don’t answer the student/teacher ratio question — it’s irrelevant and it throws off the results.  Definitely say, “Yes, I want colleges to be able to send me information.”  At the end of the questionnaire, they will provide you with a short list of good match, reach, and safe choices for college.  The colleges on this list pay to be on the list.  Important: After each category, you should see “View All Results.”  Click on that for each category.  You’ll see dozens and dozens of schools that fit most of your criteria.

Those lists are an excellent starting point.  Write down or print out those schools.  Write down all of them that might even be of mild interest, even if you’ve never heard of them.  Start checking out what Princeton Review has to say about each one of them.  Make a list for yourself of schools you definitely want to see and schools you might like to see if they’re on the way to something else.  The list should have at least 20 schools on it. (You won’t visit them all, but put them on the list for now.  You can always whittle it down later.)  Ignore the schools that you already can tell just aren’t right for you.

The best website for finding out extensive college information is one you have to pay for, but in my experience, the modest cost is well-worth the depth of information.  Go to US News and World Report and buy the Premium Online edition. I find their information easy to access, accurate, complete, and helpfully presented.

After you have a list of colleges, choose some to visit. Spring break is a perfect time to visit, so perfect that lots of colleges insist that you sign up for tours and admissions meetings in advance.  Go online at some schools that interest you that are close together geographically and check out the prospective student visitation page.  Make appointments.  Visit a big school, a small school, an urban school, a rural school.  You can go during the summer, but most of the students won’t be there.  You can go in the fall, but you’ll be cramming the visit into your schedule of applications, tests, and more, so if you possibly can go now, GO!

Let me know if you have any questions about choosing a college.  (And do take a look at my new website: www.wendysegaltutoring.com and let me know what you think!)

Wendy Segal


  1. You said, “The best website for finding out extensive college information is one you have to pay for.” This is so not true. You need to talk with your school counselor about using a free college and career management tool like ConnectEDU. Why on EARTH should you expect a student in high school to pay for access to free information and a service that their guidance counselor should be providing?


    Comment by MS — March 14, 2010 @ 5:12 pm | Reply

    • ConnectEDU may be – or may not be – a useful tool for guidance counselors, but I prefer to empower students to access information independently. Guidance counselors are busy and websites aimed at guidance counselors either cost money that school districts cannot afford or have a marketing agenda. Websites that students can access independently, like US News, are designed to have no other aim that providing unbiased information to students and parents.


      Comment by highschool2college — March 14, 2010 @ 7:13 pm | Reply

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