Tips for Starting the College Search Process

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's almost to the start of a new school year (trust me, I'm not going to talk about that very long) meaning that most high schoolers are a year closer to applying to college. Even if you're not applying for college this year (like I am, eek!), there's still a lot you can do to get ready and begin the massive process of the college search. Please not that I am not a college counselor so I'm only adding some tips and tricks that I have learned myself!

Tour as many Colleges as possible
I've found that the absolute BEST way to see if you truly like a school is to visit it in person! I've loved schools online or from reading about them but found that when I visited them they're weren't the best option for me. Also, definitely book an official tour through the university as that counts as demonstrated interest for when you apply!

And write thank you notes to the admission officer after you tour a school
If there's a chance you're going to apply to a school, send your local admissions officer a thank you after your tour as soon as possible. Again more demonstrated interest!

Clean up your social media
First of all, turn your account on to private! I've heard that colleges do check your social media pages so you definitely want to keep your pages clean of any cuss words, references/pictures of alcohol or drugs, or just anything you don't want your future college to be seeing!

Make yourself "known" to admissions officers
A little bit of visualization for y'all- sometime soon your college application will be in a fairly large pile in the admissions office of a college. The admissions officer will open your application and read your name. You definitely want them to read your name and be like "ooh I remember her" not to just be another application. So this is why sending thank you notes, meeting with your admissions officer if they're in your area, or talking to them in person at a college fair is so important! You definitely want to work on the little things that can send your application "over the edge" in the early part of your search to make the admissions process smoother.

Be open
Your perfect school may not even be a school you heard of before high school. Before touring a college, put away any stereotypes of a college or what you've heard about it from a friend so you can truly tour it with an open mind. Honestly, I've loved schools I thought I would only tour to tour but also had lukewarm feelings about schools I thought could be "the school".

Meet with your college counselor
Your college counselor is an amazing resource during your search process. Be sure to meet with him/her to discuss what you like in a college, your test scores, your major, schools that could possibly  be a good fit, what a "target" school would be for you, etc. I've found that my college counselor is an awesome person to talk to that isn't biased because honestly, I love my parents but parents can't tell you that Yale is a reach school, not a target like your counselor can.

Talk to your parents about your budget
There's no doubt about it: college is expensive. But with so many different ways to pay for college, it's important to sit down with your parents and discuss what their expectations for budget are and what they're willing to pay. This may be helpful for coming up with realistic, on target schools as a school that's 20,000 dollars over your budget may be a bit unrealistic. Also, keep in mind scholarship/financial aid opportunities that may arise at some schools too!

Stay focused on school
Junior year is stressful but keep your head in the game. To make yourself competitive for applications, school has to be your top priority. Even though there's so much to distract you (hello Netflix!) and you have a lot going on, don't move schoolwork to the bottom of your priority list as school is ultimately what's pretty important for applications!

Don't compare
There will be points in your junior year that it seems like all anyone talks about is college. It's totally okay to talk about what colleges you've toured but be careful of comparing yourselves with your friends/classmates. Just because that girl in your math class toured Duke doesn't mean you need to tour Duke. Or when SAT scores are released, try not to let what other people you know get to you as everyone will have different aspects in their college applications (remember that episode of Hannah Montana where Lilly got into a college because she had more activities even though Miley had a higher GPA?) and you never know what a specific college will value more.

Be considerate of where others are in the admissions process
Just as it's important not to compare your grades or schools to your friends/classmates, it's also important to be mindful of your friends/classmates's college choices. When discussing college (which happens quite frequently), make sure not to make any negative judgments (ex. "wow that school's so easy to get into" or "I heard that _____ is super expensive/cheap/a party school/lame/etc.") as you never know at least fully that person's situation or where they're at as maybe their GPA is higher/lower than yours or they want a lower priced school or will get a scholarship or whatever. I would definitely recommend doing your best to just stay supportive!

Challenge yourself
Junior year is the perfect time to challenge yourself in your classes whether that's taking an AP course  or simply improving your grades!

What tips would you add? Let me know in the comments!


  1. Great tips! The college search process can be long, but so worth it when you find your perfect school. I definitely agree touring colleges is the best way to find out if you like them!


  2. It is very different in Canada for finding a school!! It is huge for ours friends down south, I give you all huge credit!!

    1. That's so interesting! Thanks for reading, Sydney!

  3. You have the best tips babe! Wish I had stumbled across your blog back in my college days! <3 xo, sharon

  4. Great tips girl! I wish I would've had a guide like this when I was in high school because I had no idea where to begin.

    xoxo, Jenny

  5. These are all great tips! When I was applying to colleges I felt like I really didn't even have any type of guide, I was sort of just aimlessly submitting my application to the schools I liked. As a alumn, I will definitely say these tips are spot on!
    Kayla || Keynotes from Kay

    1. Thanks Kayla! I'm a rising senior so I'm still in the midst of the process but I'm glad they're accurate!

  6. Great tips!! I remember when i was applying to colleges and definitely didn't have any type of guide. This is so great for all the high schoolers applying now!

  7. I love your tips! I agree that touring as many colleges as possible is so important! When I was looking at schools I fell in love with a place, but when I visited I realized it was in a horrible neighborhood! I would have hated it if I had gone there! Such great tips!!


  8. It's so crazy when I was entering college the only social media was myspace and facebook was just getting started. (plus at the time facebook was the super creepy way seniors would hit on freshman girls...yuck) Now you have to clean up your media before apply to college (I feel old). This a great check list for new seniors getting ready to apply for college!

  9. My college is almost like a high school very small classes and teachers like to help which is a lot nicer then 200 kids in a class. You have really good tips!!

  10. Such wonderful tips! For me, college was just about the best uni which offered the course I wanted but I wish I had a look at your post prior to me applying because I'd have researched differently! x

  11. This post is SO helpful! I'm about to start my junior year, so I'll definitely take your advice about keeping my grades as my top priority--which is pretty necessary anyway, due to the four AP classes I'm taking...haha!

    Tori A. from Prep For A Day

    1. Thanks Tori! Good luck on your APs- I know how crazy they are and I took 2! Feel free to email me if you need any more advice!

  12. It is a long process, good luck girl!

  13. These are all good tips! I've never heard of anyone writing thank you notes, thats definitely a new one for me. I'd definitely add to make sure theres more in the town than just the college. You never want to chose a college without exploring the area and making sure theres quality places to hang out, eat, and get a job!

  14. Great tips! I started my college search in 2009 and things were so much harder back then, now there is so much more information on picking the right college!

    Laura B. |

  15. As a transfer student, making myself known to the admissions office was SO important and it would've helped a ton going into my freshman year applications. These are great!

    -Meagan | Love by Meagan

  16. Great tips! I always tell high schoolers I meet that one of the best things to prepare for college applications early on is to go tour some schools! It helps so much.


  17. Great tips!! "Talk to your parents about your budget" is #1. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the school of my choice but I know alot of people where finances was the determining factor of their choice.

    xoxo Dani


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