College Help: Getting Started

For all the juniors (or maybe even sophomores and freshmen) out there, if you haven’t begun already, it’s about time to start thinking about college. To help you get started, here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Where do you want to go? (Do you want to be able to visit home a lot, or do you want to get as far away as possible? Would you prefer something in a small college town, or in a big city?)
  • What size college do you want? (Consider both large and small – would you prefer lecture classes with a hundred or more students, or intimate classes with 20 students or less?)
  • What type of college do you want? (Think about what you might want to study – do you want a big university or liberal arts school with lots of choices, or something more specialized like an engineering or technical school? What about public vs. private? Religiously affiliated? All men or all women?)
  • Are there certain activities you want your school to have? (If you’re a major athlete or musician or artist, etc., look for schools that offer your sport or activity)
  • What fields are you interested in studying? (Look for schools that offer majors in the subjects you’re interested in)
  • Do you need financial aid? (If you are concerned about paying for college, consider the tuitions and average financial aid at each school. Public universities are typically cheaper in tuition, but private colleges usually offer more financial aid)
  • Look beyond reputation! (Yes, the Ivies are good schools, but in a nation with thousands of colleges, there are lots more that are just as good and easier to get in to!)

Once you’ve considered these college criteria, start researching colleges and putting together a starter list! Remember to include a few safety schools (where you know you could get in), a few match schools (where you have a good chance of getting in), and a few reach schools (where you might get in). Here are some resources to help you:

Princeton Review’s college guides, such as The Best 373 Colleges

Fiske college guides, such as the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2009

The College Board


Post by Callan, teen blogger

3 thoughts on “College Help: Getting Started

  1. Geneta

    Great checklist but I’d encourage students to think very expansively at the beginning of a college search. Choose a region (or two) that you are interested in, narrow by size (university vs. college) and then do your research to see what school seems like a good fit for you. If I’d stuck religiously to a list like this, I never would have ended up at the college I went to and I loved it there. Be thoughtful and plan carefully but keep an open mind.

  2. Callan

    I agree – this list is just meant to help you start thinking about what you might want in a college, but try to keep your mind open to different possibilities!


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