Navigating College Search and Application Advice

Everyone has advice for getting into college, but is it all great? Read on for a simple guide on how to get the best college advice.

Many of us in high school are thinking about how to be our best selves for our college applications. With this comes a lot of advice from your family, friends, counselors, and the internet. School has taught us how to find a good source online, but it can be hard to navigate the credibility of others. Here are some useful tricks for checking your advice from different sources and making that advice meaningful to you.

Utilize your parents

For me, the most difficult advice to handle is advice from my parents. It’s hard to look at the people you love and respect and realize they’re not experts. Your parents hold extremely valuable advice if they can cater it to your personality. Your family has spent a lot of time with you, so if you’re having trouble writing a personal essay or picking a summer job or internship that matches your needs, they can be your go-to people for ideas.

Unfortunately, your parents may not have been in college for a while, if they went at all. The college application process has changed! Your parents’ experiences may not apply to your experience. The best thing you can do is collaborate their advice with other sources. If your parents told you colleges only want students who can cliff dive, you would want to check that information, right? While their advice may not be that out there, sometimes outdated info can be that inaccurate.

Your parents might only know about the college they attended or the career path they pursued. And unless you’re following directly in their footsteps, this advice might not help you. The best thing to do is check your parents’ advice against other sources. This is especially helpful with strict applications. If you already have a narrowed-down list of colleges you want to apply to, check out their websites and confirm what that college is looking for.

Related: How To Handle Family Conflict When You Disagree About College

Talk to siblings or friends already applied to college

Those who have just gone through this process are your best resources! This is especially true if you’re interested in the same career or college as your friend or sibling. Ask them as many questions as you can. If you don’t know what to specifically ask about, have them give you an overview of what their application process was like, what parts were especially difficult for them, and how they overcame those difficulties. The more recent someone’s experience is, the more helpful it will be. If you don’t have any friends who just applied to college, make an appointment with your school counselor and ask them if there’s anyone they could connect you with who just applied.

Go to your school counselor's office

School counselors are there for a reason. It’s their job to give you advice on how to apply to college. The one downside of your school counselor is that they may not know you very well. It’s hard to give tailored college advice when you only know the basic facts about a person. Try to get to know your school counselor, then you can ask targeted questions. Remember, many schools require recommendations from school counselors, so the more they know about you, the better!

Related: When to Ask Your School Counselor These Questions

Find application advice books

There are plenty of books about application advice and information about colleges. I find a lot of these books only serve to stress me out more, but others find them helpful. I like Get It Together for College by the College Board. This is essentially a planner with advice and answers to frequently asked questions. The Princeton Review also has many books on application advice and college rankings. Advice coming from a book is definitely going to be fact checked, so you don’t have to worry about outdated information if you get the most recent edition. However, some of the books say you need to take more prep classes or sign up for programs as a way of promoting their companies. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s important to be aware that you don’t need to buy every prep book they publish.

Do your own internet research

The internet is a large source of information, but make sure you’re looking for college advice from reliable sources. Obviously, turn to CollegeXpress first [Editor’s note: Thanks for the shout-out, Rebecca!]. If you want more information, websites such as Khan Academy and PrepScholar also have free resources. U.S. News & World Report also has their 2018 Best College Rankings posted, with overall information about colleges. Just like prep books, free resources will give lots of information about any prep courses they offer. So make sure you give yourself a moment of thought before signing up for things. Also, look for the dates the information was published. You don’t want to study information about the old SAT when you’re taking the new one.

Related: College Search Resources Students Need to Know About

Overall, make your college advice search fun! Find information that interests you and ask lots of questions. The more informed you are, the less stressful applying to college will be.

For more advice on navigating college applications, check out our College Admission section!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Rebecca Barer

I am an avid reader, and I devote most of my time to writing and cooking. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family and generally enjoying life. I'm so excited to start at Johns Hopkins University this fall!


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Ida Akoto-Wiafe

Ida Akoto-Wiafe

High School Class of 2022

I wanted a school that wasn't too far away from home and could provide me with a full-ride scholarship. CollegeXpress helped me put into perspective the money I had to pay to attend those schools, which ultimately drove me to choose to attend a community college first to get used to being in college before transferring to the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, one of the colleges I was able to research further on CollegeXpress.



High School Class of 2019

My college search began at CollegeXpress. Due to this helpful tool, I was able to gather a lot of information to guide my college planning decisions. Through CollegeXpress, I was also able to apply to several scholarships to help pay for my tuition. I would definitely recommend this website to anyone who wants to explore colleges and get more information from admission experts, counselors, and real students.

Nazira Abdelkhalek

Nazira Abdelkhalek

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2014

I am very honored to be this year’s recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship! This scholarship is vital to helping me achieve and fulfill my dreams, and gives me confidence and motivation as I begin my college career. The CollegeXpress website has been invaluable over the past year as I planned my educational and professional goals. I highly recommend it to all students as they begin to focus on their college and career interests. The website is a wonderful guide to schools and scholarships.

Sierra Carranza

Sierra Carranza

High School Class of 2022

I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go to school; I was considering colleges in almost every state. CollegeXpress was an amazing resource and helped me compare all of my top schools. Without the help of CollegeXpress, I probably wouldn't have made such an informed and confident decision.

Rose Kearsley

Rose Kearsley

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has seriously helped me out a lot, especially when it comes to scholarships and studying for tests like the ACT. I also really love the financial help. It’s a little harder to pay because I live with a family of eight, so any help is appreciated. Thanks for this opportunity!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Saint Louis University

St. Louis, MO

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO