Tip of the Month: So You’re Starting Your College Search…part 1

Starting the College search process is a pretty big deal, but don’t let it scare you! Let’s take it one step at a time. Our next two Tip of the Month blogs will focus on breaking down the college search process. First stop? YOU!

Connect With Yourself

What type of classes have you enjoyed in high school? Perhaps you learn best by listening to your teacher lecture, or maybe by engaging directly with the material through discussions or hands-on projects. How have you struggled, and what has gotten you through those struggles? Some students like having access to their teachers, whereas others just like to have time to work through issues independently. Maybe you’d like to attend a college with a well-established tutoring program, or one with a very active student affairs office.

Think about your hometown and the types of experiences you’ve had so far– not just about the types of people you’ve interacted with, but also the kinds of activities you’ve been able to engage in. How have these inspired or discouraged you? Are you interested in staying in a similar environment or are you ready for a change?

Connect with Your Future Self

College will be your home for the next few years. This is why you shouldn’t just search for schools based solely on what you think your major will be (only searching for schools that offer chemistry or math as a major wouldn’t help you narrow down your list by much anyway). You should definitely think about the way attending college will relate to your life goals and about the ways you expect to grow and change while you are in college. But you should also think about the things that make you YOU!

Let’s do some reflection! Below are some questions that you can start to ask yourself as you begin this journey. Good luck.

15 Questions to Evaluate Yourself

Why do you want an education? Why are you going to college?  To make friends? To learn how to learn?   To get a good job? To become independent?

Throughout your high school years, what have you enjoyed most? Is there anything you’ve missed that you would want to do in college? Any regrets?

What do you care most about? What concerns occupy most of your energy, effort, and thought? What excites you intellectually?

What do you like to learn when you can learn on your own?  Consider activities you pursue outside of class assignments:  What do your choices show about your interests and commitment? What level of challenge is best for you?

How do you learn best? What teaching methods or styles of learning work best for you?  (Group projects? Individual research? Lectures? Discussions? Readings from text or from other sources?)

In what ways do you contribute to your school and community?  Is it likely that you will want to continue these roles in college or develop new roles?

Consider your hometown, your school, your family: How has your environment influenced your way of thinking?  How have your interests and abilities been encouraged or limited by your school and home?

What do your parents, teachers, and close friends expect of you? How have their expectations influenced your goals and the standards you set for yourself? What pressures have made you feel the need  to conform?

How comfortable are you with people different from you? Have you interacted with people who thought, acted, and believed in ways different from you?  How do you respond? What viewpoints challenge you the most? What have you learned about yourself and others?

How have you grown or changed during your high school years? How do you want to grow in college?

With whom do you associate? Who are your best friends; your best critics; your best advocates?  In what ways do you prefer to associate with people different from you or those similar to you?

How much independence do you want? What are the best decisions you have made recently? How much do you rely on direction, guidance, or advice from others? Have you chosen to do something because it was new or interesting?

What satisfactions and frustrations do you expect to encounter in college? What are you most looking forward to in college? What worries you?  What do you hope to gain from college?   What is the most important consideration for your choice of college?

What kinds of surroundings are important to you? Are there certain places, activities, terrain, weather or pace of life that influence you significantly?

How free do you feel to make your own college decisions? Do you and your parents agree about your plans for college?   Does your college counselor agree? Do you care what your friends think of your choices?