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Helping Students Research Colleges

First steps to finding the perfect fit

Searching for and applying to colleges is a stressful process. Your students will find decisions easier to make if they have up-to-date and thorough information about the colleges they are considering — or ones they may not have yet considered.

How you can help

  • Provide your students with the tools for researching colleges — including books, websites and lists of resources.
  • Emphasize to students that the first step in researching colleges is to examine their own interests, goals and plans for the future.
  • Direct students to our online College Search to find colleges with the specific characteristics they're looking for.
  • Communicate often with students and parents through newsletters and emails.
  • Conduct college fairs or participate in local fairs organized by other schools or organizations.
  • Distribute handouts and calendars that will help guide students during their search.
  • Include parents in the college search process whenever possible; invite them to parents’ nights.
  • Learn as much as you can about the colleges to which many of the students in your high school community will apply.

Learn about colleges

College tours for counselors can be arranged by contacting colleges in your area or asking representatives if their colleges have counselor tour programs. You can also check the Professional Development section of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) website, which has links to NACAC's regional affiliate organizations.

Attend college fairs and sit in on visits by college reps to your school. Not only will you be able to assist students with information they missed or didn't understand, you can help them distinguish between useful facts and marketing promotion. College fairs also offer counselors and students the opportunity to talk to several reps in one night, and you can help students sort out their impressions and differentiate among the colleges.

Some colleges and counseling organizations sponsor "Counselor Days" or "Reverse College Days," which bring the school counselors to the college rather than the college reps to the high schools. Participate in one of these programs and talk to the admission deans of various colleges — you may be able to gain insight into a specific college’s admission requirements. Also, local colleges sometimes ask school counselors to sit in on a typical admission session to observe how the application packet is reviewed.

Start with the student

Students should take the lead in discovering what special talents they have, what they are looking for in a college experience and how they best think and learn.

First meet alone with each student to discuss these goals and interests. Present your student with a list of college-choice considerations, such as:

  • Public versus private
  • Two-year versus four-year
  • Single-sex versus coed
  • Liberal arts and sciences versus comprehensive universities
  • Size: small, medium or large
  • Location: urban, suburban, rural, out of state, in state or international
  • Academic offerings
  • Majors
  • Faculty, especially in desired field
  • Academic skills enhancement
  • Residential and social life
  • Student organizations and activities
  • Athletics and recreational sports (varsity, intramural and club)
  • Community service organizations
  • Personal and career counseling
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Personal attention available
  • Diversity of student body
  • Religious affiliation

College Search allows students to explore colleges and manage their college lists online.

Then involve parents

After meeting with each student, send a letter to the parents presenting their child's interests and preferences. This will orient parents when looking for colleges that fit their child's academic profile and personality.

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