The college search is likely one of the biggest projects you are going to undertake, being you have not experienced too much yet in life. During this huge process, you are expected to find the best university for you - the one you plan to live at and move to for years of your life, - and ultimately get a degree. You need to know what you want to do with your life; the track you want to go down and ultimately what you will do for a living. It is a huge decision! But, you need to start figuring it out during these next few years at school. So choosing the right school for you is definitely an important project.

First, think about your high school grades...

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Your grades are the most important part of the college search! It is primarially about the academics, after all. You may find the school of your dreams in your search, but your chance of being accepted is close to none, then why even waste your time? The perfect place to start is to do your research... type in your college GPA into generators that find schools that match, talk to a college counselor or your school guidance counselor, visit websites like Niche or College Board to do some more exploring. When you have found schools in your range based on GPA, test scores and others, add it to your list. Even if it starts off really long, thats okay! You want to start with a ton of options! Literally write down a list of schools around your range.

Next, start a running list.

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Create a three column chart on a piece of paper... literally! Title each column the following: safety, target, reach. In the "safety" column organize the easier of the schools on your list to get into... the ones that are nearly a shoe-in and almost guaranteed to accept you based on stats. In column labelled "target", put the schools directly in your range. If your GPA is a 3.5, the schools with an average accepted GPA around a 3.5 give or take a few tenths of a point belong here. You have the odds in your favor of getting in. And in the last column titled "reach", put a couple schools that are a little (or a little more than a little" out of your range. The dream schools and the "ya never know!'s" belong here, well, because ya never know!

Research, research, research!

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Do some online research to start dropping off some schools from your list. Checking out the websites of different universities many times, specifically the "campus life" tab, will really help you get a feel for the school. Reading all the pages they have to offer for potential students is important, as well. There are plenty of places to read up on the specifics like dining halls, residential facilities and a ton of stats.

Virtual Tours

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Virtual tours are great, and almost every college now has one on their website. They are real-life videos or series of photos that show you around campus. You can really get to know a campus by seeing photos online... this could save you a flight or even an afternoon of travelling if you realize right off the bat that you hate it.

Real-Life Tours

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Although virtual tours are amazing and really help you to get a good feel for a school, they do not replace the necessity of visiting in person. It could save you a trip to the school if you find out you hate it, but if you really like it, you definitely have to visit! You will get to meet people from the school, ask questions, and even go inside buildings and get a true feel for the campus that you may spend the next four years of your life living.

College Fairs

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Any resources you have available to you, you should utilize. At my old high school they offered college visits during class times. Colleges would come to my school and present in the career center... it would give you a chance to ask questions to reps, sign in your name, and get a different perspective on the school.

More research, research, research!

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After you have gone on multiple tours and done what you can the first round, start the process of narrowing your list by researching again. Looking at YouTube videos and vlogs, I found to be extremely helpful. It is a more casual student perspective of the university of interest. There are many "day in my life" videos that can give you an inside look at campus life. Looking at reviews from many websites, looking into their clubs and activities of interest is also super helpful. The positives, the negatives, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Demographics

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Think about your ideal school. Is it far or close to home? Large, medium or small student enrollment? Do you like being in a city or on a traditional campus? What major are you interested in - you should find a university that has good programs to support it. Are you interested in joining a specific sport team or club? Do you want to be involved on a campus with Greek Life? One with religious values like a Jesuit school? A private or state university? A university that is big into sports - a big football school, or do you prefer it not to be? Research all opportunities and narrow down what exactly you are looking for to check off your list.

Slimming down your list - the final schools.

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After extensive research and tours, slim down your final list of schools. Drop the ones that do not meet most if not all of your criteria. Your list should be under fifteen schools, ideally under ten. For some people that is assumed, but for others it takes a lot of work. Make your finalized three column list and start working on your applications for each.

One last look...

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When acceptances start coming in, keep yourself patient. I think it is a bad idea to make a decision before you heard back from all schools. Some may surprise you, so you shouldn't make a decision too soon. After tuition and all other things weighed out, you can then come to a final two. Go to the admitted students days or tour it a second time with a friend or someone you know who attends the school and can give you some better outlook.

Make your decision!!

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After a second look at each school, choose which one you genuinely like the best! Academics and statistics are important for sure, but at the end of the day you will be living at your school for at least 4 years to come... so choose one you feel most at home!