Figuring out what colleges to apply to can feel overwhelming. The key is just to jump in and get started! The College Board has great resources to help you take your first steps.
Freshman and sophomore year is the perfect time to visit local college campuses to get a taste of what college is all about, and to learn about the different types of colleges and degrees they offer. Junior year, you will want to start brainstorming what you want in a college and, with the help of your parents, choose 5-8 colleges that meet your needs/wants and request information. By the beginning of senior year, you might narrow down that list even further based on your research. While some students will apply for more colleges, you should apply to at least two safety schools.
Throughout your high school career there will be opportunities to talk with college representatives who visit SCS & to attend local college fairs. All colleges offer unique campus visits targeted toward juniors and seniors, too! You can find out about opportunities by visiting the websites of colleges you are planning to apply to. Make sure you prepare to make the most of your college visit.
Here are some tools that you can use to help you explore colleges:
- College search websites:
- College Board College Search Tool (national)
- National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator Tool (national)
- Washington Career Bridge Find Education Tool (Washington State)
- Community and Technical Colleges of Washington State Search for a College Program Tool (Washington State)
- Take a virtual campus tour
- A conversation starter to talk to your parents about what is important to you and to them when it comes to picking a college
- There are many benefits to attending community college. Be sure to read up on how to make sure your credits transfer to a 4-year college. See also this Guide to our state’s community and technical colleges.
- See this link to two-year and four-year public colleges in 14 other states that currently offer reduced tuition (up to 150% of their resident tuition rate) for students coming from Washington State. This makes going to one of these colleges more affordable than paying the nonresident tuition rate!
There are also college planning resources in the SCS College & Career Center (S50). Stop by for a Campus Visit Checklist, College Comparison Worksheets, and more!
I often get asked a very good and important question: “What is the best school to study ___?” The answer depends on what you hope to get out of your program, and how a given program will prepare you to meet your career goals. Here are steps that you can take to research colleges if you already have a program/college major in mind:
- Use a college search tool to identify all of the colleges that offer the program you’re interested in pursuing. I recommend the College Board College Search Tool or the College Navigator, which will allow you to narrow down your search by state and other criteria.
- Go to each college’s website, and look specifically at their program – what courses they offer, what special opportunities exist (internship, practicum, etc.), things that stand out about their program, and how well the college meets your criteria (location, size, etc.). Use this information to narrow down the list of all colleges offering your program to those that are the best match for your criteria and goals.
- Call this narrowed down list of schools and ask them hard questions – they appreciate it! These questions can include: Where are students getting jobs after they finish your program? How much are they earning on average? How do you help with job placement? How many students complete your program on time? What resume building opportunities do you offer students during the course of the program? What is the graduate school acceptance rate for people wanting to continue their education after graduating from your program?
- Most professions (nursing, education, engineering, etc.) also have professional organizations that you can find by doing an Internet search. They will often recommend respected college programs that prepare students for their field, or at least criteria to use when selecting a good program. If they don’t have the information on their website, you can call and ask for recommendations/suggestions to help with your college search.