Jul   2017



The 6 Most Important Things I Learned in My College Search

CollegeXpress Student Writer, Roanoke College

From helpful resources to knowing when to ignore your guidance counselor (!!!), here are six important lessons from the college search. 

When you’re going through the college search process, it can seem a little overwhelming. A lot of information is thrown at you, and you may not know exactly what you’re doing at first.

Luckily, there’s plenty of college search help at your disposal. I’m also going to share the most important things I learned when I was doing it myself!

1. Naviance is your college search BFF

Naviance is an online portal that a lot of high schools use in order to help juniors and seniors with the college search and application process. For example, you may see a list of colleges that will visit your school, and you can sign up for those visits and learn more about the college. Funnily enough, the college I’ll be attending in the fall is a college that I only looked at because they were visiting my high school and I saw it on Naviance!

Naviance also helps you keep track of letters of recommendations from teachers by storing them all in one place when you start applying to colleges. It’s a super easy way to start checking out colleges and universities you may want to apply to!

2. After you narrow down your college list, visit the schools

Visiting a college is a really good way to figure out what the atmosphere is like, what the people are like, and whether or not you’d like to go there. You can set up an individual tour through the admission office, or you could attend a fall or spring preview event.

Brochures and website are nice for giving you a small sense of what the campus is like, but they’re tailored to make it look as perfect as possible. Visiting in person is a much better way to figure out what a college is like.

3. Pay attention to the fliers and letters you get in the mail

You’re going to get flooded with tons of letters, brochures and other pamphlets from colleges. However, don’t just throw them in the trash. Look at each one, even if you just scan it. There may be a major or program that catches your eye, and you don’t want to throw the information away without giving it a chance.

4. When you’re really interested in a college, show it

A lot of schools will track student interest. Basically, they will record how much interest you show in their school. This means they’ll track if you go on a tour, attend a fall/spring preview, or go to their information session at your school. If they send you invitations to events in the mail, you should always return them, even if you check off the box telling them you can’t go. They’ll track the fact that you took the time to reply. It takes 30 seconds to check the box and minimal effort to mail it, so you may as well. You never know which colleges will end up being your top choices, and these little things might even count when it comes to college acceptance.

5. Don’t get discouraged by a school’s average GPA, SAT or ACT scores

When you’re looking at colleges, you’ll see average SAT scores, average ACT scores, and average GPAs. Don’t let these discourage you from applying! You are more than your test score and grades, and your willingness to work and participate in a school community is shown in your extracurriculars, community service, and other things that you do outside of school.

Provided you’re not, you know, failing all of your classes, you should never, ever rule a school out just because your scores aren’t as high as their average. It’s good to have dream/reach schools—and you never know what will happen until you apply! That being said, don’t discount your “safety” and match schools either! Picking your safety, reach, and target/match schools is an important part of a smart college search process.

6. Don’t let anyone talk you out of applying to a school that you like

When you’re applying to schools, you should never let anyone talk you out of applying somewhere you love. When I was going through the college search process, I wanted to apply to a highly selective school, and I was discouraged by my guidance counselor, who told me I “probably wouldn’t get in.” I did anyway—and I got in. This happened to a couple different people I know. You should never let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t apply somewhere if you’re really passionate about that school. Just go for it! What have you got to lose?

I hope that this advice has helped you feel a little more at ease and that it will help with your college search. Good luck!

Did you learn anything from these important college search lessons? Got any questions or anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment or let us know.

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About Madalyn Chapman

Hi! My name is Madalyn Chapman, and I’m a member of Roanoke College's Class of 2021! I love Broadway with a burning passion, and I’ve seen several shows. In order, I’ve seen The Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof, Wicked, Something Rotten, She Loves Me, The King and I, Finding Neverland, Aladdin, and The Lion King. My favorite author is Chris Colfer, whose book Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal is absolutely hilarious.


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