1 Starting Your College Search A General Guide Anne E. Weisel Self-Assessment - Begin thinking about what things are important to YOU: Sports, clubs, a particular major, location (big city, small town?) religious affiliation, fraternities & sororities, prestige, study abroad? - Talk with the people who support you: Parents, teachers, counselor, coach, etc. What do they see as your strengths, realistic academic & athletic ability level, etc. Do they have any suggestions? - Pool your info and take a realistic look at yourself. How do your interests, SAT/ACT Scores, transcript, and financial need come together? - This will give you the outline for a school that is the right fit for you! - Check out or use the College Board s My Road software. These computer generated searches are so helpful!! Visit, Visit, VISIT!!!! - Visit schools you have no intention of attending (YES! I m serious!) to get a no-pressure exposure to the visitation process. - Visit ALL the schools you apply to arrange an alumni interview if you cannot visit the campus. - Individualize your visit to your interests: Meet teachers, coaches, students, see facilities, sit in on a class, determine if this school is a good fit for you, use your self-assessment as your guide. - Know your basics!! Check out the college s website, read the Peterson s Guide description, and have questions prepared so you know as much as you can at your visit and are prepared for questions. - YOU should ask the questions!! It is very important that you take ownership of your visit. - If you are touring the campus WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES!! Most campus tours last at least 1 hour. Also remember that many admissions offices look out over the parking lot. You are being watched when you arrive! - Remember to write a thank you note after your visit to EACH person you met with, including your tour guide. This is especially important if you met with an athletic coach or professor regarding a particular major. - Start a college notebook. After visiting a number of campuses, especially on an out-of-town trip, your memory of the details of each one will get fuzzy. Make a page for each school you visit. In the few minutes after your visit, write your immediate thoughts on the page. When you are trying to remember months later which school it was that had the student center you loved, this will come in very handy!
2 College Fairs - An excellent way to get an overview of many potential schools in one place. - PROBE in the fall here in Savannah. - Visit for a listing of National College Fairs, where you can see hundreds of schools from all over the world. - Prepare ahead of time by researching the list of participating schools and knowing who your priorities are. Don t waste time wandering up and down the aisles! - Most college fairs offer the opportunity to register online in advance. Registering online loads all your information into their system including your interests, activities, and often your academic profile (all self-reported). As you move through the fair, you can have your badge scanned or your smart phone scanned to load your profile to the schools you talk to that you are interested in. - Virtual college fairs are becoming more and more common. You log in from home or school and are able to talk to representatives from a variety of colleges and universities, just as you would in a traditional college fair, without leaving your chair! Getting to Know Your List - Many admissions offices now have Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as student blogs that are geared specifically to prospective students. - Explore the websites, read the college newspaper, and check the coming events on the campus. - Attend athletic events or performances if the school is within driving distance. - All of these things will help give you a feel for the campus environment, and eventually help you to know if this feels like a place you could call home for the next four years. From this process, you should develop a list of schools you plan to apply to that include both financial and academic reaches, middles, and safeties. No school should be anywhere on your list unless you can truly see yourself happy there you never know, you might end up attending it!
3 College 101 Steps to College Admission Step 1: Research Colleges & Majors (Spring of Junior Year) Do a self-evaluation and think about what you want in a college and which majors/careers interest you. Meet with your counselor to discuss your plans. Use computer searches and/or books to help identify colleges to visit and majors to explore. Keep an open mind and consider private colleges and out of state schools. Sometimes private and out of state options become affordable due to scholarship offers and financial aid. Take the SAT Reasoning Test and, if feasible, the ACT test. Register online (and on time) at and SAA s school code is Step 2: Parents & Students- Look at Your Financial Situation (Spring of Junior Year) If you have not already done so, examine your family s financial options. Get a ballpark idea of how much loan debt the student and/or parents are able and willing to accept. Consider future plans (advanced post-graduate degrees, etc.) and how that affects your financial picture. Step 3: Visit Colleges (Spring Break or Summer) Visit some different types of colleges (city/suburban, large/small, etc.). Take an official tour. If possible, attend an open house or a Q&A session. Observe students in busy areas (mailboxes, student center), and check out the school newspaper. If you are visiting many colleges in a short span of time, take notes so that you keep the details clear. Visit Savannah s area colleges, especially if you can t visit schools that are further away. Step 4: Prepare for Senior Year and the College Selection Process (Spring /Summer) After identifying a career field of interest, see if any opportunities exist for an internship or job shadowing. Get more involved in the community and work on community service projects. Prepare a draft of your resume and be ready to create a good one in your Language Arts class in the fall. Step 5: Narrow Your List (Fall of Senior Year) Determine which colleges you would be interested in attending and begin applying. Make sure that you have a balanced list that includes some schools that are likely to accept you. Meet with your counselor again to brag about your progress and review your options. Take the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT again, and use the four free score reports. Check application and scholarship deadlines early and read all instructions carefully ahead of time.
4 Step 6: Apply to College (Fall/Winter of Senior Year) Make a list of your application deadlines. Apply online. Have SAT and/or ACT scores sent to colleges to which you have not already sent them. This is done through the websites of College Board and ACT. Allow time to write good college essays. Don t wait until the last minute to write your first draft. Be organized and stay ahead of schedule. Step 7: Apply for Financial Aid (Starting January of Senior Year) File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1 st. Be aware of financial aid deadlines for the schools to which you have applied. Look for scholarships through online searches and information posted on the counseling dept website. Step 8: The Forlorn and Forgotten Step: Eyes on the Prize Remember what your goal is in this whole process. Is it to get accepted to a college of your choice or is it to attend a college of your choice and be successful? There is a huge difference. Don t forget to continue doing everything you can to prepare for the rigor of college work. Remember that you will spend much less time in class in college and will have more responsibilities out of class. Resources Information from our Junior College Night presenters is available in the counseling section of the SAA website (on the Juniors page). Researching Careers & Majors: Use to match yourself to career options and build a portfolio (counselors have taken juniors to computer labs to work on this). The Occupational Outlook Handbook provides detailed information from the U.S. Dept. of Labor about various careers and includes growth trends, preparation, working conditions, etc. The website can be found at My Road is a website designed by the College Board and is great for exploring various careers and majors. Students who took PSAT can get free access. (My Road guides are available on our website). Use the personality test at to help gain insight into your own preferences and how they match up with potential majors/careers. If you are drawn to a particular career, think about whether it would be possible for you to job shadow or intern with somebody during the summer. Ask parents/guardians, friends, or other relatives if they know someone who might be able to do this for you. You could also try just meeting with someone in that field and asking questions.
5 Researching Colleges: The GA College 411 website can help you to explore schools in Georgia and around the country. Use Big Future on the College Board website for college searches and other tools. bigfuture.collegeboard.com. The SAA College Room (located in the counseling office) has college guidebooks that let you explore colleges the old fashioned way and also has some books that deal with special types of schools (such as performing arts schools). Researching Costs, Financial Aid & Scholarships: GA College 411 has a great section that explains how financial aid works. It even includes various calculators to help you to better understand your own personal situation. You can access monthly newsletters throughout senior year, including info about college search websites that we recommend. These newsletters are posted on our website and are available to anyone. There is a district website that lists specific scholarships, including local awards. This page is linked from the counseling website. Become acquainted with Fastweb (www.fastweb.com) and other scholarship search websites as suggested in our scholarship newsletter. When you register, Fastweb will match you with scholarships that may be appropriate for you. Fastweb will even send you s to let you know when new awards become available. You may not find too many scholarship programs for high school juniors, but you will at least be set up for next year. Test Prep: Many resources are available for SAT/ACT preparation. See the counseling section of the school website for more information and/or use books to help prepare. Classes are held locally as well. Listen for announcements about these opportunities. Other financial resources include:
6 Help Your Counselor Help You Mike Pugh, fastweb.com (some alterations have been made to the original text) When it comes to selecting and getting into a college, counselors are invaluable. But they can't help you unless they know what you're looking for. Help them give the guidance you need by following these tips from counselors across the country. Visit early and often. Get to know your counselor during your freshman year. Check back with them as needed to discuss courses and extracurricular activities. Start discussing colleges during your junior year and keep your counselor informed throughout your college search. Let your counselor get to know you. When meeting with your counselor, be prepared to talk about yourself. Provide them with a list of your extracurricular activities, jobs and summer experiences. Greet them and remind them of your name as often as you can in the halls, at after-school functions, etc. "You don't want to be a student the counselor barely knows," says Paul Marthers, Dean of Admissions at Reed College. "The result will be a generic recommendation." Prepare for meetings. Know what issues you want help with and compile a list of questions you want answered. "I always like it when my students come with specific questions prepared ahead of time," says Bonnie Laughlin, director of college counseling at Francis Parker School in San Diego, CA. With questions in hand, your counselor can focus your work to make your meeting as productive as possible. Do your own legwork. Start reading college guides during your junior year. Check out the web sites of colleges that interest you. Then visit your counselor for help narrowing down your choices. Attend workshops and seminars. Counselors frequently organize workshops and seminars to discuss college admissions. Participate! Many of your questions will be answered there. You'll then be able to devote your one-onone time to more specific concerns. Provide materials well before the due date. "Give your counselor all forms (school report, recommendation, mid-year, etc.) early and, preferably, all at once," says Nancy Scarci, former counselor at Roosevelt High School. Be sure to include information about deadlines. Recommendations that require no specific forms should be requested in writing with the address and deadline clearly noted. Show them your best. You'll get better advice and better letters of rec if your counselor really knows what makes you tick. Show your counselor what motivates and inspires you, and impress them with your motivation. Pay attention. Listen carefully to what your counselor says. Even if you don't agree with what they're saying, listen closely and make your own decision. Thank them. Be sure to thank your counselors for their help. Send a written thank you note after your counselor writes a letter of recommendation. Your counselor is a very busy person but not too busy to help you with your biggest education decision. Get the guidance you need by helping them help you. Fastweb publishes several great articles like this one, including articles about parental involvement, choosing colleges, interviewing tips, checklists, timelines, and more.
7 College Selection Worksheet The most common mistake that is made by college-bound students is choosing a school that is not a good fit. Less than half of college students graduate from the college where they start. Please use this tool to help you clarify what s important to you. Complete the table on the front of this worksheet and then have your parent/guardian complete the table on the reverse. Compare your choices, noting the differences. Having an open discussion about the differences can substantially reduce stress, tension, and frustration during the search process and may lead to much better results for all. What s Important to You? To Be Completed By Student Place a Check in the Appropriate Column Distance From Home Two-Year College Four-Year College Selectivity/Competitiveness Cost Campus Life Major(s) Size Athletics SAT or ACT scores Living Arrangements Setting (Urban, etc.) Study Abroad Co-op Programs Activities ROTC Reputation Safety Public Private/Religious Extremely Important Fairly Important Not Important
8 What s Important to You? To Be Completed By Parent/Guardian Place a Check in the Appropriate Column Distance From Home Two-Year College Four-Year College Selectivity/Competitiveness Cost Public Private/Religious Size Athletics SAT or ACT scores Living Arrangements Setting (Urban, etc.) Study Abroad Co-op Programs Activities ROTC Reputation Safety Public Private/Religious Extremely Important Fairly Important Not Important
9 SAT/ACT Ideally, all juniors would take both the SAT and ACT during spring of junior year and then take at least one of them again in the fall of senior year. Neither test is necessarily easier or harder than the other, but they are different. Some students find that one test allows them to perform better than the other. When taking ACT, we recommend that students take the optional writing portion. Many colleges will require it. SAT Test Dates (Subject To Change and Error- Verify Online) Registration Deadlines Test Dates Tests Offered Late Regular (fee applies) October 11, 2014 SAT & Subject Tests Sep. 12, 2014 Sep. 30, 2014 November 8, 2014 SAT & Subject Tests Oct. 9, 2014 Oct. 28, 2014 December 6, 2014 SAT & Subject Tests Nov. 6, 2014 Nov. 24, 2014 January 24, 2015 SAT & Subject Tests Dec. 29, 2014 Jan. 13, 2015 March 14, 2015 SAT only Feb. 13, 2015 March 3, 2015 May 2, 2015 SAT & Subject Tests Apr. 6, 2015 Apr. 21, 2015 June 6, 2015 SAT & Subject Tests May 8, 2015 May 27, 2015 To register, please visit When registering for SAT and ACT, please be sure that you don t skip the part where it asks you to identify your high school. Otherwise, we will not receive your scores, and that can cause major issues. SAT practice information is available on the College Board website. ACT Test Dates (Subject To Change and Error- Verify Online) Test Date: Registration Deadline: Late Registration Deadline: Sept. 13, 2014 August 8, 2014 August 22, 2014 Oct. 25, 2014 Sept. 19, 2014 Oct. 3, 2014 Dec. 13, 2014 Nov. 7, 2014 Nov. 21, 2014 Feb. 7, 2015 Jan. 9, 2015 Jan. 16, 2015 April 18, 2015 March 13, 2015 March 27, 2015 June 13, 2015 May 8, 2015 May 22, 2015 To register, please visit We strongly suggest that students take a practice ACT test before taking the real one. The structure of the ACT is very different than SAT, so it will be very helpful for students to understand what to expect. Free ACT test prep booklets are available in the counseling office.