Happy 5th of July! Okay, so I missed by a day but it’s time for another 5 things. This post will hopefully help rising juniors and seniors find a college that fits them and their needs and navigate “the process” as many are calling it now.
- Do your homework! – I’m not talking about geometry or chemistry here (but still do that type of homework). There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. You have a ton of options and all that choice can be overwhelming. For many of you, you haven’t had a say in your education to this point. Study up on a variety of schools that offer a few majors that you are interested in. There are a plethora of resources to help you such as the Princeton Review’s College Search, Big Future from the College Board, and US News Best College Search Tool. Check with your high school to see if you have access to Naviance. These will let you sort schools based on size, location, areas of study, cost to attend, and a number of other factors. Make a list of 10 or so colleges to put some additional work into once you have identified them as schools of interest.
- Start Local – We need to take some small steps before we really get running. Check out local area universities or colleges on a weekend that you are free. Explore a large, medium, and small school (keep in mind those are all relative to your preference) that are relatively close to home. You may not be interested in that particular school but it can help you gauge the scale of the university and if you would fit in at that university. Try contacting the Admissions Office at the school for tour dates/times.
- Attend a College Fair – Chances are, you will have a college fair in your area (or within an hour drive) this coming fall. College admission representatives spend months every fall bringing their universities to you. These fairs are great opportunities to ask a lot of different institutions about your future! Avoid pitfalls though (I may make a future 5 Things about college fairs) but talk to schools you haven’t heard of, gather information, ask questions that will help you past application requirements, and decide if the university requires more of your search time.
- Visit “Your Schools” – I really struggled with placement on this list item. Certain students may have this as a last step depending on resources or distance of a university from home. You can do all the research in the world on a school but until you step foot on campus, you will never really know if that place is going to be “home” for the next four years. This is called a lot of different things but most admissions professionals call this “fit.” The feeling a student gets where they are comfortable to study, live, explore, build relationships, and a 1,000 other things. Colleges and universities are a lot like people in the sense that they have different values and views on the world. Taking the time to visit your top universities is a critical step in the college search process.
- Pick Your 5 – This piece may be the most important (and I’m stealing it from a colleague of mine). I personally believe the single biggest pitfall in the college search is the concept of a “dream school,” or a single school that you are putting everything into. It creates a lot of negativity in the search where other schools are treated like inferior options and are in some cases labeled “safety schools.” The alternative I recommend is getting a “Fit Five” or five schools that you would be more than happy to attend if you are accepted and the schools financially work with your circumstances. These five schools can look very different as well, academically, socially, physically, and geographically. That is perfectly fine. It allows you, as a student, to focus your time, effort, and energy on a selection of schools that are manageable to visit, contact the admissions officer, plan a visit, and work on the application all while maintain a busy high school life. This approach gives you choice while avoiding a lot of the negativity associated with the college search process.
So this has been a bit longer winded than most 5 Things but I sincerely hope it helps. As always, you are welcome to contact us at UMBC’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions with any question. Leave a comment below if you have questions or if you would like me to write about a specific topic for a future “5 Things With Ed.”
Happy belated Independence Day and enjoy this wonderful week!