Navigating The College Selection Process

college search

Higher salaries and better job opportunities await those who decide to go the college route. As the fall application deadlines draw ever-nearer, wannabe attendees are chomping at the bit to select and apply to their dream institutions. The process can be daunting, but with the right headspace and guidelines, it’s easier than most believe.

It’s important to visit colleges before applying to shortlists and waiting for acceptances.

Choosing Colleges

As most admissions experts say, students should apply to between four and 12 schools, depending on the budget they have for application fees. To ensure a balanced mixture, individuals can categorize colleges into three groups — reach, target, and safety.

Despite that, some students don’t feel compelled to apply to many schools, as they have a strong sense of where they want to go. However, they must realize that by applying to fewer institutions, they run higher risks of getting that soul-destroying rejection letter.

So, aim the college search to around 12 colleges and follow the professionally given tips below to aid the decision process:

  1. List — Students should list the colleges they find interesting alongside a guardian or school counselor. It should include a wide range of schools with geographic locations, academic majors, qualities, sizes, costs, campus environments, and support systems that make sense for the pupil.
  2. Rank — Since the list will likely be long, it’s now time to whittle the options down. Students need to consider what they want and need from their college experience to make this part of this process easier. Some people prefer the Big 10 experience, while others want an intimate vibe.
  3. Visit — Exploring college campuses allows families and students to get a better feel of institutions’ cultures. When visiting, it’s important to ask questions, sample the cafeteria, and look at the on-campus housing.
  4. Unable to visit in person? – Fear not, as college visits often do come with a hefty price tag. Fortunately, there are resources available to virtually explore campuses from the comfort of home. Immerse yourself in the college experience by tuning in to episodes of ‘The College Tour’ and participating in free classes to gain invaluable insights into which campus aligns perfectly with your aspirations.

At this stage, pupils will have a shortlist of colleges they want to apply to. For that, they’ll need to head to the next section.

visit colleges

Applying to Colleges

Applications for fall 2024 opened August 1, 2023, for most colleges, but there are different admission options that let students submit their applications by different deadlines — early action, early decision, regular decision, and rolling admissions.

Fall 2024 deadlines are summarized below:

  • Early action (apply early, receive early decisions) — Application deadline is November 2023. Admission decision is December 2023.
  • Early decision (similar to early action, some colleges have two early decision deadlines) — Application deadline is November 2023. Admission decision is December 2023.
  • Regular decision (most students apply during this batch, thanks to the wide application window) — Application deadline is January/February 2023. Admission decision is March/April 2024.
  • Rolling admission (colleges evaluate applications as they come in, offering several application windows per year) — Application deadline varies. Admission decision is between four and six weeks.

Early admission only works well for students who are prepared quickly within their senior years, giving themselves plenty of relaxation time. Most, though, are better off waiting for the regular window.

Regardless of when students apply, they typically must submit a personal essay, official transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, and one to three recommendation letters.