Searching for colleges can be tough. Providing advice for new students can also be hard, because each student will value different things in his/her college choice. We recommend asking for advice from friends, family, counselors and teachers, searching for colleges using online college search tools, and then visiting colleges either in person or via a virtual tour.
When you start searching for schools, it may be hard to know which things you will appreciate most in a college or university. Talk with someone who has been to college — a teacher, a college counselor, an older sibling, a relative or a friend's older sibling to get a better understanding. Ask them about experiences they had when searching for colleges. They will have the first-hand experience that can help your search. For example, they may have already visited or been to the schools you have been considering on paper, they will have a better grasp about what amenities colleges offer, and what mattered to them while they were in school. Lastly, ask what factors were most important to them in their final college choice — this will surely help you get started in the right direction. In short, ask them what they liked best and least about the colleges they considered and eventually attended.
If you can't talk to someone about his or her college choice, plan a visit and get the first-hand experience yourself. Even if you are not planning to attend a local school, it might be a wise idea to visit a few. Why? As you are just starting your college search, you may not have a grasp on the criteria that you are looking for in a school, and a local college (that isn't too far away) is a great way to get started. By visiting big and small schools, you can get a feel about what a college with 30,000 students looks like in comparison to one with 3,000 students — even if you think you would like one better than the other, you may be surprised to discover the specific benefits of each.
Planning a college visit will mean asking your parents, a friend with a car, or finding the time yourself to drive out (or take public transportation) to a few choice schools. If you get research together beforehand, you may even be able to stay the night with a current student at the college. Be sure that if you are going to visit a campus, you plan to do so when classes are in-session and students are on campus. To arrange for such visits, contact the college’s admission office at least two weeks before your planned visit.