As with any type of search that you will do, the first step is to come up with parameters. What are “you” looking for from a college? Start to think about and create a list in writing of factors that are important to you. These factors can be based on geographical location, cost to attend, facilities - dorms, class sizes, extracurricular activities, etc. While it is okay to have many factors/parameters on your list, you should take the time to see which factors/parameters are the most important to you; that will make the school a “best fit” for you. Here are some thoughts that may get you started:
1. What are the academic standards of the school?
2. What is the social environment like? Ask yourself if you could live at the college or university. Ask yourself if you could live at the school if for some reason athletics were not part of the college equation.
3. Is the soccer standard or level a good fit for you and your skill level?
4. Are you interested in a city school or are you interested in a more rural setting?
5. Get an understanding of the size of the institution that you would like to attend. Do you mind walking great distances to class?
6. Consider class size when looking at schools. Are the lecturers teaching 150 students? Does the school use "Full Professors" or do the Graduate Assistants do the teaching? Are you used to classes with just 12 students and one lecturer?
7. Is the faculty producing high quality research in your field? Do they have your intended major?
8. Narrow down what you may be interested in studying at college. If you don't know, make another list of potential areas of study. Start with what you are good at, for example math and sciences. Base your research for a school around colleges or universities that have strong academic programs in those areas.
9. How far from home is the school? Do you want to be able to get home on weekends, if possible? Do you want your family to be able to watch your games?
10. How much does the school cost? How much can I afford?
As you can see, there are many factors to consider. In addition, some of the factors require parental input (i.e. cost). Sit down with your parents; discuss the factors you feel are most important to you in choosing a college. Once you have figured out what you are looking for from a college, and know what parental limitations you have, you are ready to begin your college search.
The best search tool is the “College Search” function on the College Board website. Start by going to www.collegeboard.com and click on “For Students”; then the “Find a College” tab. On the left side of the screen you will see “Tools” and under that “College Search”. Click on college search. Enter all the parameters that you thought were important to you and your parents. Once you finish the search, print your list of schools. You can keep modifying the parameters as necessary. We recommend that you print each list of schools and associated parameters. These lists are commonly referred to as the “Long List” of schools. If time permits, compare the lists and see what schools are on all the lists. These could be the first ones you visit because they have all the factors you entered.
Another great resource for performing a college search and comparing colleges is the US News & World Report website www.usnews.com. Every year US News & World Report publishes a hard copy magazine that compares and rates all colleges. They categorize schools by best value, academics, etc. This is a must see/read issue for parents and students in their Junior and Senior years.
As you review these websites and conduct your searches you may notice colleges are grouped by “Tiers” or “Levels”. In general, all colleges are grouped into four Tiers/Levels. Tier 1 schools are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. A Tier 2 schools would be Stonehill College and a Tier 4 school American International College. As you can tell just by the schools that I mentioned, the Tier 1 schools are obviously more well known and more costly. Also, the admission requirements are more stringent at Tier 1 schools than at Tier 4 schools. When performing your search, eventually you will want to come up with a “Short List” of schools, to which you will apply. Your Guidance Counselors will recommend that you apply to perhaps six to nine schools. They usually tell you to make two of these schools “reach schools” and two “safety schools”. “Reach schools” would be schools where the admissions requirements academically are slightly higher that what you would qualify for based strictly on GPA/SAT scores. “Safety schools” are schools where you meet all admission requirements easily and there is no question of you getting accepted. Another way to look at this is your reach schools would be in a Tier higher than what you would qualify for, and a safety school would be at a Tier below what you would qualify for. In today’s Admission environment and with the competition for candidates, many schools are moving to what is referred to as a “Rolling Admission”. This type of admission lets the candidate know within a matter of weeks whether or not he/she is accepted. Applying to schools with a “Rolling Admission could eliminate your need for safety schools. See the Admission section for more details on Rolling Admissions.
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