Once you have determined the factors that are important to you and learned a bit about different schools and what they offer, you need to meld those two items into a preliminary list of colleges to investigate further. You can talk to your counselor throughout this process. Keep in mind, there is no ideal college that will fit all your criteria. At the end of your junior year, you may have a list with as many as thirty colleges. That’s O.K. At this early stage of the process, it is good to cast as wide a net
as possible and keep your options open.
Do the investigative legwork. Read college brochures (with a critical eye), visit campuses (in real life or via virtual tour at a college’s website), watch videos, and talk to current students and alumni.
If you can, visit college campuses. This is the best way to get a feel for the college. Take tours and attend group information sessions. Talk to current students. Compare this first-hand impression with what you’ve read. See the post on “Visiting College Campuses” for more on visiting colleges.
Refine the list. Add or delete colleges based on your continued research.
Read mailings. Colleges acquire lists of names and addresses from the companies that administer standardized tests. If it hasn’t begun already, you will shortly find your home mailbox stuffed daily with letters and brochures from a variety of colleges and universities. Take a look at some of these before tossing them toward the recycling bin; you may learn about unfamiliar schools or particular events/programs/offerings of schools in which you are already interested.