How to Research Colleges – Follow this Checklist

You are ready to work on searching for the colleges that you eventually want to apply to but you’re wondering, where do I begin and what does it take to do so? Well, fear not, Signature College Counseling will walk you through with a checklist you can follow as you conduct your research.

Taking the Time to Do Your Research Is So Important

We always tell all of our families and the people that attend our Zoom presentations that even if you do everything else right in your college admissions journey, if you don’t give research to your colleges the attention that it is due, your college journey can be a disaster. The college search is the foundation of your college journey. It is not something that you approach by selecting schools only by their name recognition, sports teams or the pretty campus that they have. Students and families need to look beyond the pretty buildings and landscaping, dig deeper and find schools that fit them socially, academically, financially and emotionally. Doing anything other than that is a great injustice to your journey and may yield results that are not in line with what colleges may fit who you are on all of these levels.

What you need to do is take a deeper look at what you are looking for in your college experience and dig deep into what your financial boundaries are, what are you willing to/can afford to pay for your college education. How much can you/your parents contribute to your education and the possibility of what loans you are willing to take. WARNING: Be very careful with how you answer this question about taking out loans and understand what your payments will be and for how long depending on the amount you plan on borrowing, if you are even considering that option. See below for considerations and actions you should take when doing your college research.

For additional information on the college search please read our blogs on:
How To Begin College Search
How To Narrow College Search
Blogs Related to College Search

A Robust Checklist to Aid You in Your Research

1. College Costs

This step should be discussed first and foremost! We cannot stress this enough! What can you afford to spend on your college journey? What are your financial boundaries, what you/your parents can and/or are willing to put towards your college education?

2. Financial Aid

You should find out if you will be eligible for financial aid. This will help determine if you will possibly receive financial aid funds, potentially in addition to merit funds. Read our blog How much financial aid can I get for college.

3. Start early!

We cannot stress this enough. You want to be proactive in the process. Ideally, the beginning to middle of sophomore year.

4. Start the process by asking “Who am I?”

How do I learn best? What type of people do I like to be with? Is religion a factor? Do I like to attend sporting events where everyone is there cheering for the home team? Do I want to be in the middle of a city or do I like a more rural setting? There is no right or wrong answer, just what is best for you.

5. Do You Fall within the College’s Requirements?

Consider a college’s academic requirements, GPA, test scores, level of courses, and where you stand – your credentials vs. the school’s criteria. The last thing you want is to apply to a school where you are far outside their realm. On the other hand, you also want to make sure that you have a couple of school’s on your list that you know you will get into and you will be happy to attend.

6. Consider Where You Want to be Geographically

Do you want to stay within a 4-6 hour radius from home? Can you be a 2-3 hour plane flight away or is anywhere in the country an option?

7. Assess the College’s Academics

Make sure that the schools on your college search list have the major you are interested in. You may be drawn to a specific school for a myriad of reasons, but if they don’t have the major or majors that you are considering, take the college off of your list.

8. Think about the Type of Environment You Want to Surround Yourself With

Every college has a personality. Schools may have similar statistics, but when you drill down to what the school’s “personality” is, each one is different. Trust us, we have visited over 400 schools and each time we have a preconceived notion of what they will be like only to find out when we step foot on campus it is completely different. Is the institution socially liberal or conservative, preppy or granola like? Do students go skiing every weekend, is it an outdoorsy group of students? Is it a city school where the city is your campus or is it located in a more rural area?

9. Do Your Research and Continue to Do Your Research!

This is the biggest decision you are going to make in your life thus far – socially, academically, financially and emotionally. Give researching colleges its due. We cannot stress this enough!

We hope this checklist helps you hone in on your research so you can find the colleges that fit you best.

For more information, read our blogs on How to Narrow Your College Search and How To Begin Your College Search. Also, click here to view our College Planning Timeline.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone and by email.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone and by email.

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