Your admission journey begins here, part 2

Posted on January 26th, 2020 to College Admission

The first step on any new endeavor is to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know, then to go out and learn. As you begin to explore the plethora of books, articles, websites, blogs, and consultants you may feel overwhelmed (and for the record, yes I get the irony because I am a consultant and blogger). Some common questions I have answered from adults and students alike are:

        • Where do I start?
        • What are reputable resources and sources?
        • How many sources do I actually need?

The primary tool I recommend and use myself is the College Board’s BigFuture college search tool. Now there are a lot of criticisms levied at the College Board, and even I have been known to rail against them. Regardless, I can say there is one thing they do well — collect and disseminate data. While most assume they only collect data on test takers, that assumption is only half right. They also collect data on schools. They have turned that treasure trove of information into a database and search engine rolled into one, and offer it for free to you. It has information on every college or university that uses the SAT (which is basically every US school and some schools in foreign countries). That said, it is really a starting point as data only tells us part of a school’s story. As with any good research, having qualitative data will really bring what you are studying to life.

When it comes to the qualitative side of your research there are several categories of sources. These all have pros and cons so it’s important to understand how they fit into your college search

        • College review books (like The Fiske Guide and Princeton Review) provide a considerable amount of useful information, but are limited in the number of schools profiled. This limit could be due to the scope/focus of the book (e.g. Colleges That Change Lives) or the cost a school has to pay to be profiled.
        • Rankings (like US News and World Report) tap into our human desire to know who is “the best”. But the best for whom? They can be useful to filter schools that match your interest (e.g. entrepreneurship programs).
        • Professionals like secondary school counselors, community based organizations and independent consultants are phenomenal, hard working and well intentioned. They will do their best to serve you and your best interestsk. So utilize these folks for both their expertise as well as their ability to advise and counsel you through your admission journey.
        • Personal recommendations (friends, family, etc.) can also provide useful insight into your college research. Please just remember that they are speaking from their perspective, so don’t be afraid to investigate their claims further.
        • The blogosphere/social media (like college confidential) platforms are great because they connect us together, augmenting information sharing! However, we have seen that we shouldn’t blindly trust the author publishing the information, so verify and ask questions.
        • School websites are great because they are the authority on deadlines, requirements, programs, student culture and so on. Keep in mind schools are conscious of branding and thus invest considerable resources in curating the information on their website.

I have experienced first hand the helpful and detrimental effects of all of these tools. There are a couple of key elements to keep in mind when using these tools in your search:

        • The more information you know about your qualifications and interests the more helpful the tools will be. This includes: GPA, standardized test scores, academic interests, and extracurricular interests.
        • Combine these tools together. When used together you will strengthen your research methodology, ultimately improving the outcome.
        • Remember why you want to go to college!

Are you feeling ready for more? Contact me today so we can talk through your journey and identify a plan for success!

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