For most high school students, the summer after junior year is the time to start considering where to send their college applications. Making that decision can be exciting, it can mean touring campuses across the state, or even the country, but there is also a lot of anxiety about finding the best colleges for you. Here are some of the first steps to take, and things to consider before even starting those applications.
Consider a Community College
Community College is a fantastic option, and often an underrated one, especially for students who may not have any idea about their career interests or what major they want to pursue. Community colleges often cost less and they offer quality classes that take students through the general education requirements they need to transfer into a four-year university. Another plus? Transferring from a community college often gives you options to attend universities you could not have been accepted to right out of high school. In my hometown, one of our community colleges offers a direct track into UC Berkeley, one of the best universities in the world, and one of the most selective.
Be Selective and Extend Your Reach
Sending out college applications is not only time consuming, but they can also be incredibly expensive. Being selective about where you send your applications could save you from spending years at a college you may not like in the slightest. Having a “back-up” school is not necessarily the best option, especially with rising tuitions costs. Finding undergraduate college scholarships is a task in itself, a worthwhile one if you’re attending a school you really like. Only apply to colleges you know you will enjoy attending. Another thing to remember is that admissions departments are not just looking for the highest SAT/ACT scores, the best GPAs, and the most extracurriculars; something about you may set your apart, something you may not consider exceptional. Apply to schools you would love to go to, even if they feel out of your reach.
Do Your Research
Two of the most important factors to consider before even applying to a school are the programs offered and the colleges’ locations. Even if you do not know what major you would like to pursue, research the colleges’ best majors and departments; make sure you see at least a few that initially spark your interest. If you do not like cold and windy weather, you probably should not apply to schools in Chicago. If you are like me, and know that being landlocked just is not for you, applying to schools on the east or west coast might be your best option. Tour as many campuses as you can. It may seem trivial at first, but remember that college life is not just about going to class and studying. You are going to spend two, four, or maybe more years at your school; you have to love where you are.
People write books on how to apply to colleges, which I definitely suggest reading, but these initial considerations will help you narrow your selection. Don’t get overwhelmed and take the time to reflect on what will be best for you. College is going to be the best time of your life, make sure you make the best of it.