Seven resources to help your students develop a college short list

Portrait of a female student sitting outside with bag and writing in book

We created these seven resources to help you help students develop a successful college short list.

Who is knocking on the college door? According to the College Board Group research, an increasingly diverse academically prepared student body. This presents substantial challenges and opportunities for school counselors to give prospective students helpful direction. That’s why we created these seven new resources to help you help students develop a successful college short list.

  1. Understand options: Encourage students to think about the kind of college they want to attend. Help your students learn about basic college categories and answer questions to refine their preferences. Start by determining whether or not the student wants a two-year or four-year college. The non-profit College Board Group has an interactive search tool that is a good resource. This includes 3,898 colleges for various search filters including type of school, location, test scores and selectivity, housing, majors, sports and activities – just to name a few.
  2. Find out what matters most: For some students, sports and activities are very important while others want a challenging academic environment. However, many students may find it difficult to translate what’s important to them in their next step in life. Help students focus by asking questions like: “What are you interested in? How do you learn best? How do you spend your free time? What do you feel passionate about? What do you think you want to do in the future? How will college be different from high school?” Check out this video from a student panel about experiences in selecting a college.
  3. Conduct an online search and take virtual college tours: Some students want to find the perfect college. The truth is, there are many colleges where a student could be happy and get a great education. The college search process is about finding colleges that match each individual’s unique preferences. A great way to find information about a college is to speak with current students or alumni. Many universities and colleges host webpages with virtual tours and interactive resources where prospective students can immerse themselves into the culture and experience of each college.
  4. Stay open to possibilities: Help students stay open to all possibilities at the beginning of the search. Challenge assumptions about what will work for them. Advise them not to limit their search but to seek opinions and do research. Begin with 15 or so possible choices and narrow down this list by researching schools, visiting their campuses and talking with students.
  5. Affordability: At the start of this process, students may rule out colleges because they think it is too expensive or too hard to get into, but this may not be the reality. Financial aid can help make college more affordable, and colleges look at more than just grades and test scores. Help your students remember there are college matches for every student, and they may find success from several different college options.
  6. Likelihood of Acceptance: Interactive tools like Cappex help students drill down admission requirements once the student has decided on college.
  7. Less Is More: Often, because students can’t decide which colleges to apply to, they apply to too many. Caution them not to do that; applying is a time-consuming and tedious process. Applying to 5-8 colleges is ideal. Remind your students that applying to each college costs money, so it’s important to be practical during the short-listing process. Students should apply to those schools that are a good match for their personality, interests, and career goals.

Choosing the right college is a personal experience. It is important to identify the parameters that will most influence a student’s college short list. Once these parameters are laid out, students can research to identify which colleges meet their needs.

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