Feb   2016



How I Started My College Search

Student, Upper Arlington High School
Last Updated: Feb 8, 2016

Last year, as my older brother was getting ready to send in his college applications, I began to wonder about my own college search. Which colleges should I be looking at? What do I even want to study at college? Although I was only a sophomore, I knew it wasn’t too early to begin my search.

Now, with junior year only half way over, I can proudly say I have already narrowed my list of possible colleges down to eight contenders. But, how did I get here? Well, I’m about to tell you—but before I start, you should probably know that I am your typical type A, overeager-about-college high school student. Not many high school juniors are this far along in their college search—and that’s okay. You have time. I just love planning, and as high school went on, I realized that the next logical part of my life to plan was my college years. So, if you’re just starting out with your college search: congratulations, you’re normal!

Naturally, one of the first steps in finding a college that’s right for you is figuring out what you might want to study. However, this is arguably the most difficult part of this entire process, and it goes differently for everyone. It might help to start with thinking about what you love: is it helping others or a certain subject in school? Maybe you love an activity, like dance, theater, or art. All of these can help to lead you to a future profession. Personally, I turned towards my passions for writing and history, which led me to journalism. Although this may sound silly, even taking some of those online “What career are you meant for?” quizzes can help affirm your thinking . . . or lead you in a completely different direction you may have never explored. After taking all of this into consideration, hopefully you have some general ideas of what fields you think may be right for you.

(Editor’s note: keep in mind you’re bound to find lots of options—and backup options—at lots of different colleges. It’s okay to be undecided too, as long as you have some basic ideas of what you want to learn more about in college. Also remember it’s okay to change your major later on. Also also remember a major doesn’t mean your future is set in stone!)

Related: The Truth About College Majors 

Then things get a little easier. I may be a nerd, but I found this step to be really fun. Since I was searching for a relatively specific major, I could simply Google the top colleges for that field and conduct a bit of research. And if you’re like me, you click on all of the links. Using a sheet of paper, I created a list of the college names, leaving space underneath them. Every time a school popped up on a list recognizing them for strength in my major, I’d tally it! Next, you can narrow the your list down even further by considering location, price, Greek life, or anything else of importance to you.

Related: Safety, Reach, and Realistic Schools and the Secret to Picking Yours 

After your list is condensed to 10–12 schools, start planning campus visits. I am believer that visiting a school is absolutely necessary in the selection process, as you can truly discover if it feels right.

Once you have found your dream school, you can formulate your plan for applying to them (the more research you do, the better you’ll know the school, and the better you can plan!). With this, success is bound to come your way. And even if it doesn’t, you have a whole list of other schools at your disposal that may have been a better fit all along!

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About Ellise Shafer

Ellise is a lover of creative writing, journalism, and music. She is the Copy Editor of her high school's newsmagazine as well as a cheerleader, and she enjoys being involved in her school and community musicals. With her free time, Ellise heads her own music blog and also writes for London-based website Music Blogged. She loves live music, and one of her favorite things to do is review concerts. She is so excited to join the CollegeXpress writing team and can't wait to share her college-search experiences with others!


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