When You Should Start Thinking About College

When You Should Start Thinking About College

By Corinne

Now! Please?

As an admission counselor, I can't tell you how many students I meet with who don't start their search until January of their senior year. And guess what...most of them aren't accepted. Why?

Well, for one thing, crafty admission counselors can identify a desperate last-minute application with their eyes closed. And there aren't that many institutions of higher education institution (OK, there are zero) that are dying to bring procrastinating slackers into their classrooms. If you're not interested and we know it (i.e. you've never visited campus or you're applying as a last resort) we're not going to accept you over the student who really wants to be here.

With the majority of schools across the United States accepting fewer than 55% of their applicants, you want to give yourself every opportunity you can. So while your slacking classmates are incurring lasting sun damage at the pool, take a few days to kick off your college search.

"Where the heck do I even start?" you ask? Good question. Here are some tips:

  • Start close to home. If you're not sure what kind of school you're interested in (big/small; private/state?), where you want to go (in-state/out of state; close to home/far far away?), or what you want to study (ballet/modern? Econ/Pre-med?), visit the closest institution to home. Even if you would never in a million years go to school down the street from your parents, check out nearby schools for the experience and exposure. It's a low-pressure way to figure out how these college visit things work in the first place.
  • Go online. If you know a little bit about what you're looking for—for example, if you're positive you want to be a doctor or you know you're bound for California—do some research online. Many colleges have great websites where you can IM with admission counselors, take a virtual tour, read students' blogs, and even get a live view of campus from various camera views. When something catches your eye, shoot an e-mail to the admission office—I promise, they're really nice people eager to talk with you! Give them your name, high school/hometown, any academic/extracurricular interests, and a pleasant "please" and "thank you," and before you know it, you'll be well on your way to a strong application.
  • Schedule some trips. Once you have that list of 5 or maybe 20 schools, thoroughly browse through their websites, contact the admission offices, and take that giant leap of scheduling your first visit! Open houses are a great way to see campus, meet students, hear from professors and sometimes alumni, and learn about the next steps. Be forewarned: they attract sometimes hundreds of families, so be prepared to fight the crowds.

Got a question for Corinne? Email her at advice@sparknotes.com!

Topics: college search, admissions

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