The College Search Process and Procedures
First, you cannot begin this too soon.Secondly, you can begin this too late.Beginning senior year is too late.St. Pius provides a couple of dozen different kinds of opportunities to assist you with one of the most important research projects in your entire life.It is that important.We want you to make an educated choice, be immensely happy and find that perfect "College Fit". You and your parents and St. Pius have to work together to make this happen, and it will not happen unless there is a concerted effort by all parties. As ominous as this all sounds, the Search can and should be a blast!I honestly never had more fun in my life than when we looked for The Fit for both of our children. Also, nothing in our lives has been more gratifying.It is worth every mile traveled, every wrong turn, every meal out of a bag in the car on the trip, every dollar of debt we have incurred and every struggle each of them has had.We want for your students what happened with our kids.Go for it!
There are other links on the College Counseling web page and the College Blog which can fill in the blanks, so this is just an overview.As stated above, start ASAP. My son Dylan's College Search Process (CSP) really began when we dragged him along to every visit we took with his older sister, Harper. The first thing to be done is to sit down and talk as a family.This can establish some important parameters and help to immediately pare down the thousands of possible schools.Give me fifteen minutes and let me ask the student (not the parents) three questions and I can promise you we can whittle the 3,500 schools to about 20-25.
Once this master list is made, and of course it may change through the months and years, the next thing to do is make a College Search Calendar (see Dylan's in the College Blog).This CSC is essential to future success, will prevent lots of frustration, will give everyone a game plan and establish priorities.No one ever regrets making this calendar well in advance.Everyone who does not make the calendar regrets the decision
During the junior and early senior years, we encourage students to miss a day of school and visit a college of interest with their parents.You have to see the school in action to make a solid decision.Weekend visits and open houses are great, but this step is essential.Spend the night before in a dorm (away from your parents of course!). Take a private campus tour.Sit in on a class.In short take in the real flavor of the entirety of the college.Ask yourself, "Do I belong here?Does this feel good?Do I have that gut feeling that this is where I belong - that this is the Perfect Fit?"You do not necessarily have to know a major field of study (a Major) beforehand.Be open-minded to the many possibilities out there.My philosophy, and you may disagree with this, is if you find the right College Fit, the major will follow. I honestly do not believe and it is not my experience that many 17 year olds know what they want to do with the rest of their lives.A good college fit will set them up to learn how to handle just about anything life can throw at them. So, in my opinion, major-schmajor. You will figure it out in the environment created to help you figure it out, during the years provided to discover it - College! And by the by, the United States has the best college and university system in the world.How did so many people in the 1850's have such foresight to establish such grand institutions?
Ideally, by the end of the junior year, a student has a short list of three to four schools to apply to early in the senior year.As the Blog example demonstrates, essays can be worked on and be made ready to go and adapt to any application, letters of recommendation can be acquired, Student Resume Portfolios touched up, art portfolios made, athletic video tapes produced and coaches contacted, interviews set up, etc.A senior should be ready to apply in September.Of course there may be a late entry or recently discovered school, but that is usually a good outcome as a result of your continued search. That happened with us with Murray State.Dylan did not apply there but it went on the Backup List if Truman did not pan out like we had planned.
Oftentimes the Admissions Application is also the automatic scholarship application.So when you receive that long-awaited Letter of Acceptance, they may tell you about some scholarships you will automatically receive because of your GPA (Grade Point Average) and ACT and possibly your Portfolio credentials.Immediately send in a rooming deposit to hold your place in line for the dorm and roommate assignments which will come later.At this time call Admissions or Financial Aid and ask if there are In House Scholarships they may offer which require a separate scholarship application.In House is always your best shot because the competition is only from those new classmates of yours who are also admitted. The next best bet is the local scholarships like the Elks and Rotary.They are usually not announced until the spring.
Finally, seniors need to stay focused on the books and courses and grades until the very end.Schools can and do rescind scholarships when that GPA slips in the senior year.Stay the course!