College Search Plan
College search is the foundation of the college admissions process. I continue to say that you can get every other piece of the process right but if you don’t work through the college search piece in great depth to discover the best college matches, the rest of the process will be meaningless. As I say, there is no such thing as a bad college but there is such a thing as a bad college match. A child heading off to a college where they will not thrive can not only mean tens of thousands of dollars lost but also can take an emotional toll that steers them in a direction that will affect them for a long time to come.
Beginning the college search with a student and their family is like seeing a 100 puzzle pieces on the floor, all turned over so no part of the picture is seen. It’s a mystery waiting to be uncovered! I begin by working through my college search questionnaire that has over 50 touch points where we discuss the families and students needs and desires, in great depth. We discover the learning environment that works best for them, are they an independent learner or will interacting with their professors help them enjoy and succeed. What are their geographic preferences, does religion play a role and what are the student body characteristics they are looking for. Are they playing Division I, II or III athletics, or are they looking for athletic opportunities on the club or intramural level. What are their interests, what do they like and what do they dislike. What is at the top of their list and what is inconsequential? These, amongst many other pieces helps turn the puzzle pieces over to begin the process of putting it together to form a picture of their future.
The focus is always on the student but the family is an integral part of the equation as well. A parent many times can know a student better than they know themselves and gaining their insight is key to a successful journey.
Included in my college search plan is assessing their families financial aid profile so we all understand what the family’s financial needs are and where the family stands through the eyes of the college financial aid officer. This is an integral part of the college search process since every school is not created equal. Some being more generous than others and matching the financial needs of the student and family with the right colleges is crucial. I never want to be in a position where a student has their heart set on a school they have been accepted to, only to find out that the family can’t afford to send them there or, even worse, the student will be straddled with excessive debt that puts them in a precarious financial position when they begin their life after college.
After gathering all of this information, I begin my research to compile my college search packet, which provides the select list of college’s and associated key information and more. We meet to walk through the list, where I provide my overview of each and why I made these selections. College search doesn’t end there. It is an evolution that is fluid and ever changing, as the student and family go through their discovery of what they are looking for in their college experience.