A couple of months ago, I had a conversation with a parent of a sophomore who was concerned that her daughter had no idea where she wanted to go to college, what she wanted to study, or how to start figuring it all out. The only thing she knew for certain was that she definitely did NOT want to go to the same school her older sister is currently attending! After the mom and I shared a few commiserate chuckles over sibling rivalry, I shared the following:
- Start exploring. Gump told Forrest that life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The college search is sort of similar. You never know what’s out there until you start, so start exploring!
- Begin locally. If you are truly uncertain, you still have to start somewhere, so why not your own backyard? Visit the closest college to your home—no matter what type it is or how it’s ranked I can almost guarantee that on your first few visits you will learn more about the process than the schools themselves, so save your gas money and start nearby.
- Add variety. Schedule a visit to the closest large research university, medium-size comprehensive university, small liberal arts college, community college, etc. Keep in mind that these can be both public and private. At this point, don’t worry about price or reputation, you are just exploring. If you are going on a summer vacation or road trip, stop at any colleges that you might see along the way and drive around the campus.
By exploring what’s around you, things will start to fall into place. You may find that you like the large campus feel, or you might find that you really like a smaller more intimate campus. Once you know, you can then work with your family, counselor, college adviser, etc. to start building a list of schools on which to focus.
Colleges really are similar to that box of chocolates—there are so many varieties available! Large schools in small towns, large schools in big cities, small schools in small towns, small schools in the suburbs, small schools next to large schools in small towns or big cities, and everything in between. There’s usually something, or even several, for everyone.
The key is taking that first step. And when you first get started, don’t walk on campus and ask yourself, “Is this where I want to go to college?” rather ask yourself if “this is a college I would like to put on my list?”
Good luck on your journey and may you find your own special combination that feels just right!
College Coach, Film Aficionado, and Mom of a College-bound Freshman