The College Search Summer

High School graduations are in full swing.  Many of you probably have summer jobs, athletic camps or enrichment programs to participate in, which will keep you busy during the summer down time.  But whatever you do, don’t forget the college search!

Many people think that the college search should take place at the beginning of your senior year.  And while that is an important time in the search process, it should start before that!  Take advantage of your summer vacation time by stopping at some colleges that interest you on your way to the beach or the national park this summer.  Think about what you want in a college.  Do you want to be in a big city or a college town? Do you want to be in a school with tens of thousands of students or just thousands?  What kind of weather can you tolerate?  What do you want to study?  Once you answer some of these questions, do your research.  Are you driving through or near a city that has a school that fits your criteria while heading on a summer vacation?  If so, schedule a quick visit to campus.  It takes no longer than a half a day and can provide a nice break from sitting in the car (and maybe even a free meal at the cafeteria).

So what can you do if your family is planning a stay-cation or you won’t be going anywhere near a campus you are interested in visiting?  There are still several things you can do to jump-start the college search.  Many schools offer virtual tours of their campus on the admissions website.  Dedicate an afternoon by the pool to watch the tour to get a feel for campus.  Some colleges even have times scheduled where admissions counselors, current students, professors, and other school administrators will conduct an online chat with interested students.  See if you can participate in one of these. It can be a valuable way to get a sneak peek into the college without actually being there.  They’ll never even know that you are chatting in your PJs!  Also, while you are at your summer job or camp, talk to those you encounter about where they went to school.  People who are currently in college or who went in the past can be valuable resources as you strive to learn more about the process.  Just remember that you are your own person and will have your own experience, so if you like a college they are talking badly about, you still need to do your own research and make up your own mind.  Finally, you may be able to check out meetings of the local alumni groups from colleges you are interested in.  Visit their website or call the university alumni office to find out when and where they will be meeting and see if you can come.  It’s a great way to hear from many generations of graduates, but again I will include the warning that members of alumni organizations are necessarily going to be the school’s biggest cheerleaders, so don’t forget to do your own research and make up your own mind.

Whether you just finished your freshman year in high school or are about to start your senior year, summer is the perfect time to start to explore what colleges might be right for you.  So take some time out of your busy summer for the college search!

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