As I’m just beginning, there isn’t much about college life I can tell you yet. But maybe there are some of you that aren’t quite here yet either. So this is a College Process Trilogy. Because there’s so much to do, it can be overwhelming. But I’ll be breaking it up into bite-size pieces for you. This is all based on my own experiences, so if you have better resources or methods, please be sure to comment and share your wisdom!
There’s only one rule for this process: Do not panic, remember that it will be okay, and you just have to keep trying. How corny, right? Well, it’s true. It doesn’t matter if you start this process in eighth grade or twelfth grade. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you’re too far behind your peers to do it right or if you just feel like the road to college is too long and crazy to get through. You really do have your whole life and you won’t spend it all just trying to do this process. It’s do-able. So. Where should you start?
CHECKLISTS. Even if you’re a good part of the way through the process, if you don’t have a checklist, you should make one. On Microsoft Word, in a notebook, on a post-it note, painted on your wall, whatever. I would usually pick and choose between online checklists (such as from here or here) to make sure that I was going at the right pace for me. I started my search in seventh grade…but didn’t actually make much real progress until the summer before junior year. And it worked out for me! So make a checklist starting from where you are. Pick up the slack (this is my lingo for when you make up for the stuff on previous checklists that you didn’t do) and keep on truckin’. Knowing what things you should do and when is basically the only thing you need. It’s difficult to stay organized when you’re getting letters all the time in the mail from schools and there are two dozen obligations in the way. So do yourself a favor and keep up with checklists.
What types of things should be at the top of your list?
POSSIBLE COLLEGES. Know what you want. My priorities were the academics, the distance from home (or almost lack thereof because I’m prone to homesickness), and the size of the school (I would never go to a huge state school like Mizzou). Other things to consider include tuition/financial aid available, dorm life, reputation (are you looking for an ivy league or a party school?), majors/minors available, etc. There are plenty of college personality quizzes. Go to college fairs, talk to your teachers and family to know about their alma maters, go online for sites that will tell you all about different schools. Make lists. Compare them. Get as much information as possible. I saved up every single letter and brochure and postcard sent to me from colleges. Then I narrowed my list down one by one. By the end of junior year, I had five colleges left in mind.
VISIT COLLEGES. I visited my top 5 colleges. Each one. Schools love it when you ask to visit them. Each one took me on a tour, sat me down to answer all of my questions, and gave me all the information I needed to make my decision. Of course, they were my top five for a reason. It was hard to choose. And each visit went so well that I just felt super excited and in love with them. But after I had visited, I had enough info to go back, compare further, and rank them. It’s kind of like Goldilocks. For me, only Truman State University was just right. Don’t worry if you still have troubles deciding. Many of my friends fretted over this for a very, very long time. But you’ll figure it out. And even if you fall out of love with it eventually, it’s not the end-all decision. You can transfer if it really doesn’t go well. Maybe I’ll even fall out of love with Truman and end up at my #2 school. Who knows. But I made my decision and I’m confident in it and happy with it. Take your time and you will be, too.
The college search can be long and tiring. But you will find the right one! I pinky promise.
Have you already finished this whole process? Have two cents to add? Are you still somewhere within this process and hoping for more information? Please share your wisdom, insight, questions, and concerns in the comments below! Let’s start a conversation!
Thank you for reading!