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May 11, 2020

Your College Candidates List

This information is targeted mainly at high school juniors. Granted, you're busy right now with school's year-end requirements. You're thinking about next month's Advanced Placement exams, maybe some Subject Tests, and/or another SAT. Maybe you're also conducting a summer job search, now that school is winding down. If you're a spring-sport athlete, you've got practices and games to contend with, plus you've got a life, right? I hope so. Spring weather offers opportunities to get out there with that boy or girl of your dreams and get away from thinking about differential equations and the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Well, let me throw something else onto your pile of important thoughts -- college choices. In just a matter of months, you'll be a high school senior. You'll be amazed at how fast you can go from spring to fall. Summers are usually a blur, so start thinking ahead now. Maybe you can do some quality thinking during the summer blur, but human nature, being what it is, usually sidetracks advanced planning for teenagers. So, the challenge I'll issue to you today is to start thinking about which colleges best suit your higher education needs and which ones will see your application roll in.


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Of course, if your parents are willing and you have the time (probably not), you may want to squeeze in a couple college visits now before students leave campus. As I've said before, visiting a college while the student body is in residence is unquestionably the best time to visit. You'll feel the energy of the students, experience the atmosphere of a "live" college campus, and maybe even get to sit in on a class or two. Plus, don't forget those college tours (pictured) where you get to see how accomplished some people can be at walking backward. Okay, here's a dumb riddle: Why is college-candidate selection like a Christmas song?

The old favorite, “Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" has a lyric that says “He's makin' a list and checkin' it twice." When it comes to picking colleges to apply to, high schoolers need to make their list and check it twice. Maybe check it more than twice.

For you juniors who are considering a four-year college, now's the time to do some thinking. You may have never thought of yourself as a “consumer" about college matters. Perhaps to you, consumers are those people who buy laundry detergent and then give their opinion to some telephone survey person.

Not so fast, future frosh. This is where informed decision making becomes crucial. In past comments here we have addressed the issue of money as a consideration for attending college. As you may have noted, money is only one of your considerations. Deal with it after you address some other important criteria.

When you ask yourself what you want from a college, don't be shy. What do you really want? Do you want a school that has a beautiful campus in a secluded part of the country or one that is in the heart of a big city? Are the school's prestige and reputation important to you? Can you define what level of academics you prefer in your chosen area of concentration? How far from home do you want to be?

Will teaching assistants (TAs) instructing some of your classes satisfy you or do you want senior faculty teaching you? How about access to that faculty? Will your school have professors who are approachable in situations beyond office hours? How about student body size? How about the weather? Are you getting the picture here?

There are so many considerations. You are the one who should make the call, though. So what are you waiting for? Get out paper and pencil right now and write down what is truly in your heart about college. Even if you have never set foot on a college campus, you may have an ideal stored away in your dreams. Write it down. Over the next few weeks, keep adding to your list.

By Thanksgiving, you should have quite a detailed summary of what you want from a college. Then it will be up to you to find some matches for your candidate list that will form the nucleus for your college search. Your research should come from guide books, campus visits, and your own honest reactions.

The best source for your research, though, is as close as your computer. SuperMatch is College Confidential's world-class college search tool. SuperMatch is the latest advantage College Confidential provides for high schoolers. As the CC Web site's SuperMatch link proclaims, “College Confidential can help you narrow down your school choices. Search more than 3,000 colleges and universities by name, location, or area of study!" SuperMatch allows students and parents to search online for a college or university by using 19 criteria, including location, tuition, admission standards, major and Greek life. So, check it out!

Thus, if you can state what you really want from a college, you'll find that there are several (or more) out there waiting with open arms. Go find your super matches!

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Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

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Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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