Researching Colleges

With the vast resources of the Internet and the increasing availability of college fairs, open houses, school visits, and the like, students and parents are more likely to suffer from an overload of data rather than from a lack of it.  Here is a process that will help you make sense of it all:

1. Have a family discussion about the college characteristics that are most important to you and your family.  Size and location are very important to many students, but availability of major, selectivity, reputation, availability of financial aid, and personal fit are critical factors as well.  Narrow down your college possibilities according to the one or two criteria that are essential to you.  If you can’t settle on the characteristics you’re looking for, try visiting a couple of local colleges, and ask yourself afterward what you liked and what you didn’t.  This may help you define those college characteristics that are most significant to you.

2. Use a search engine such as Collegeboard.org or Princetonreview.com (see “Helpful College Websites”).  By typing in one or two preferences, these websites will provide a list of colleges that meet your major criteria.  Put these colleges on your “search list” and concentrate your research on these, but be open to other possibilities as you refine your search.

3. Begin researching the colleges on your search list.  Along with the actual process of applying, this will consume most of your time.  The good news is that there are many resources available to help you with this.  Here are a few:

  • College websites.  Although you’ll see a lot of information about the school on the admissions link, you’ll find out even more by accessing web pages on student life, academics, and financial aid.  Browse and take notes!
  • College Fairs and Open Houses.  College fairs give students direct access to college admission representatives.  Students are able to interact directly with the college rep to ask questions and learn more about the college.  College fairs are usually held during the fall and students can expect to meet with many college representatives who are visiting from across the country.

    Open Houses provide families with the opportunity to tour a college campus, meet students and faculty and to hear about admissions and financial aid.  Visiting the college campus is one of the best ways to determine whether the college is the right fit for you.  Colleges post open house dates on their web-sites.

  • The guidance counselor.  Students are encouraged to meet with their guidance counselors regularly regarding the college search and application process.  The counselors are knowledgeable in the college search and application process and can be valuable resources.  Our counselors are also in communication with many college representatives and often visit college campuses for a tour or seminar.  
  • Naviance.  Naviance is a college and career readiness platform that connects students to college and scholarship information.  Students will set up their Naviance account in their junior year and will have access to a variety of college and scholarship resources.  In the senior year, students will utilize the site to create their college lists, request transcripts, and more.
     
  • Guidebooks such as those from Peterson, Barrons, or Princeton Review. You can obtain these in almost any book store, in the guidance office, or at the school library.
     
  • Visits from College Representatives. Admissions counselors from various colleges and universities visit Catholic High throughout the fall and winter. They are knowledgeable about their schools and can answer most of your questions.  Listen for announcements and check the Naviance website to see which colleges are visiting when.