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The College Search Begins with YOU!

Updated: Apr 25

Rick Clark, former head of admissions at Georgia Tech, recently wrote in his April 2024 blog post titled Three Messages About College Admissions for Juniors (a good read!) that “the college admissions search is internal.

Clark means that searching for the best college does NOT begin with a simple Google search or your favorite football team. Instead it begins with YOU. Students must first consider who they are, how they learn, what is important to them, and what kind of future they want before creating a list of colleges. 

This self-reflection is often the step many students want to skip! 

All of my family went to UGA so I should, too! My sister goes to FSU, so I know I will like it. My friends all say Elon is too small, so I know I won’t like it. These are some of the things I hear when first meeting with students about college planning. 

But we need to do some self-reflection and some research before we automatically add or delete colleges from your list. 

Do the internal work first! And keep an open mind!

Reflect on yourself as a learner. How do you learn? What type of classroom works best for you? Do you like to discuss topics or just listen to lectures? What do you enjoy studying? Do you thrive with competition or do you need a more relaxed academic environment? Do you want direct access to your professors? Do you need a good learning support center on campus? Big or small classes? Understanding the best academic environment for you will help you find the right college classroom and a school, major, or program where you can be successful. 

Consider your lifestyle. What is important to you? Do you need quiet spaces to study? Do you need an active social life? Do you like to work out regularly or play team sports? Do you want to cheer for a big sports team? Do you like to volunteer and help others? Do you love the outdoors? Do you like to be deeply involved in clubs and organizations? Do you like to perform on stage or create art? Do you care about student government or being an activist for causes important to you? Do you want to participate in Greek life? Do you need a spiritual outlet on campus like a church or religious group? Answering these questions will help you figure out what you want on a campus, outside of the classroom.

What about location or campus vibe? Are you adventurous and ready to move far away from home and explore a new region of the US? Do you prefer driving distance to college? Do you want a large campus where you can always meet someone new or do you prefer a smaller campus where lots of people will know who you are? Do you want a college town? Or a college in the middle of a city? Do you prefer a campus with cohesive architecture or a more eclectic feel? Do you want to feel strong school spirit at your school? What about the weather? Consider these factors as you decide where you want to live and study.

What opportunities do you want in your college experience? Internships? Study abroad? A co-op program? Research alongside a professor? Design spaces? Performing spaces? State-of-the-art lab facilities? Help getting into medical school or law school? Career advising? Academic advising? It is important to think into the future and what resources you will need to launch a future career.

What about the cost? How much can your family afford? Are you willing to work while you’re in school to help offset the cost? Will you apply for scholarships? If so, what is available? Are you willing to take out loans to pay for college? Have a frank conversation with your family about what is reasonable and possible before you begin your college search. College is a major investment!

The college search begins with YOU. 

Take some time to answer the questions listed here. Answer them thoughtfully, thoroughly, and honestly. Before you dive into college research and build your college list, think about who you are and what you want. Then you will know what you are looking for and what will work for you.

College is about more than just attending class or a football game! You will be living, eating, socializing, exercising, studying, and working in this place for four years. It will be your first home away from home. It will define you and launch your future self.

So do the internal work first and you will find the best fit for YOU.

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