High School 2 College

March 22, 2011

Don’t Waste April!

Here are some crucial words of advice for high school Juniors:

Don’t waste April!

If you don’t go to look at colleges in April, you won’t get to see them at their most typical until the fall.  March is too cold and snowy.  By May, exams have begun at most colleges so they don’t offer tours then.  You won’t see the students, anyway – they’ll be in the library.  By mid-May, everyone will be home for the summer.  You can indeed visit schools over the summer, but you won’t see them buzzing with activity and you won’t be able to have your pick of students to ask embarrassing but important questions.

So if you have to take a few three-day weekends in April, go ahead.  Most schools count college visits as excused absences similar to illness.  In other words, those visits are still absences but if you miss work, the teachers will let you make it up.

What if you don’ t know which colleges to look at?

  • Go on www.princetonreview.com.  It’s better than the College Board search and much, much better than Naviance.  Look for “explore colleges,” then “best fit,” then Counselor-o-Matic.  (Yes, it’s a stupid title, but it’s a great program.)
  • Complete all the pages of the survey and submit.  You’ll get a list of safety schools, a list of good match schools, and a list of reach schools.  WARNING:  those lists contains only schools who paid to be there.   Don’t stop there!
  • In each category (reach, match, safety), click on “view all schools” and then you’ll get the GREAT list of schools that match your requirements.
  • Review each school, view the video if there is one, and go on to the school’s website and fill in the “send me more information” form.  It’s a good way to let the school know you’re interested.

Once you have a list of schools, group them geographically. Most students in northern Westchester check out the Boston-area schools, the Pennsylvania schools (Lafayette, Bucknell, Muhlenburg, Lehigh, Penn State), the southern schools (UDelaware, UMaryland, Towson), the SUNY schools, and other categories.

Your goal is to start with a huge list that you can pare down to about 10 – 14 schools to which you will apply. You need to be sure there are at least two safety schools on your application list — schools that will accept you as long as you are still breathing by admissions time.

You should also apply to a school or two that you’re fairly certain you won’t get into, but OMG what if you did?  I believe that if you get into every school to which you apply, you didn’t aim high enough (as long as you’re not crushed if you don’t get in).

You don’t have to visit every school you apply to, but you should visit a few schools from different categories:  urban, suburban, rural, close, far, huge, tiny, medium, religious, secular, sports-oriented, academically-oriented, lots of fraternities, no fraternities, and so on.  Get a feel for what you like.

There are no right schools. There are only schools that fit your personality and intended major and preferences — or schools that just don’t feel like you could ever call them “home.”  A school that is right for you might be a terrible choice for your best friend.

Go, visit, and see what feels like a good fit for you!  (And click here for advice on making the most of a college interview.)

Wendy Segal

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