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College Search: Researching Schools

Get Some Guidance
High school counselors are a great resource when it comes to learning about colleges, financial aid, and admissions-related information. They can tell you about particular schools, as well as the specific requirements for getting into them. They can also tell you about many useful and relevant college-search resources.

The more prepared you are in terms of knowing what you want, the better your guidance counselor will be able to help you. You shouldn't feel shy about asking for help, even if you're an all-knowing superstar. Guidance counselors have years of experience in this area and there are also side benefits to establishing a good relationship with them: They can be a great reference if they know you well and they have significant influence over some scholarship money that you're after.

Below are some questions you might want to ask your counselor as you discuss your potential college choices:

  • Are my grades good enough to get into this college?
  • I want to go to this school that's tough to get into. Do you think I should take more advanced-placement courses?
  • How can I find out more about this particular school?
  • Do you think this college is worth a visit?
  • Which of these two colleges do you think would be better for me?
  • Has anyone from our school ever gone to this college? Do you know how I could get in touch with them?
  • My parents think I wouldn't be happy at this school. What do you think?
  • Do you think this school is challenging enough for me?
  • Do you think the information in this guidebook is accurate?
  • Are there any scholarships I should be looking into?
  • This college offers a major I'm really interested in, but I'm not used to that kind of setting. Do you think I would adjust easily?
  • My parents won't be contributing that much financially and I'm kind of freaked out about borrowing a lot of money, but I want to go to a really good school. What are my options?
As with all advice that you get during this process--and if your experience is anything like ours, you'll get a lot--know that it's just the opinion of one person or one source. Don't rely on it like it's the law; be strong enough to make your own judgments.

From the Horse's Mouth
One of my friends had been at this school for a semester and another friend for a year. They both were really helpful. They were able to tell me what to expect from the campus as a whole, the student body, and the professors, as well as what the atmosphere of the campus and town was like.

--Recent Grad
Southwest Texas State University

Alumni and current students at a college can be extremely valuable sources of information. They've been there and can give you firsthand accounts of their experiences. Ask them questions about class experience, social issues, or other things that concern you. Talking with them can also give you a sense of what types of students attend this school and how comfortable you'll be interacting with them.

Another benefit of alumni and current students is that unlike counselors, college representatives, and your parents, they are your peers--or at least much closer to your age--and you may feel more comfortable asking them certain types of questions.

Remember that what current students and alumni tell you is highly subjective. Just because they had a certain experience doesn't mean that you'll have the same one. For example, if someone tells you, "It's hard to make friends here," it may be that this person is not very outgoing and hasn't made an effort to make friends.

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From Choose the Right College and Get Accepted: How to Choose the Right College and Get in to Your Dream School by Students Helping Students. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here.

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