Let’s address the creation of the initial list of schools. There are many different ways to go about creating this list and more than anything when doing so always keep in mind that this is a starting point. I’ve worked with many students whose final list looked nothing like their initial list because throughout the process their understanding of their needs and wants changed as they more clearly understood themselves. It is this process that will undoubtedly lend some clarity to those things each individual is really searching for during their four years of college and beyond.
Here are the primary wants and needs (early on you may not know which of these fall on your list of needs and which are part of your list of wants…and that’s okay but think hard about which of these will help you find happiness and success…that may help you better understand the ideas of wants and needs) to consider for the student include (during this process they may be very gray or might have very little direction at all. Clarity will come after visiting schools, conducting more research, and further thinking about your future):
Location: Is this a Regional, National, or even International search and how might that impact other aspects of the search process (for instance the idea of cost of attendance or cultural differences).
Size: What size of a community are you looking for, we typically think about sizes from those that are XS to those that are XL. Colleges can range from a couple of hundred students to more than 60,000 and everywhere in between. How will the size of student body and the campus itself impact you as a student.
Setting: Easily broken don into the basic ideas of urban, suburban, and rural but within those heading there are vastly different institutions. Some urban schools have defined campuses while others blend right into their city surroundings, other schools are located in the suburbs of major cities while others have access to smaller towns. Finally, how might you be impacted by attending a rural school where there isn’t a whole lot around other than your campus.
Major: Rather than a focus on major especially in the early stages of the creation of a list we talk a lot about strengths and interests for two reasons; there are more than 1500 different academic programs at the college level and nearly 80% of college students change (or adjust) their major at least once so think more closely about what you like, where your strengths lie, and what different possibilities are open to you within these areas.
Culture (Social and Academic): What type of campus community are you in search of? From the social side are you in search of the Liberal or Conservative, Greek or Non-Greek, and how is this culture dictated by location and type of school. Academically would you prefer a Core Curriculum, Flex Curriculum or Open Curriculum are you looking for a competitive or collaborative environment, how do students and faculty interact? All of these are questions of school culture.
Athletics: For the student-athlete this can oftentimes drive the search process. Most important, especially in the early going, is being open to the different possibilities and honestly assessing yourself throughout the recruiting process.
Academic Support Options: This is especially important for those students who have received support while in high school or understand what kind of learners they are and thus what kind of learning environments best support them. For student-athletes the idea of support can also be important especially during the season.
Cost of Attendance: There might also be a need to consider the COA (Cost of Attendance) in the early going, we oftentimes tell families to be conscious of the COA but in this early stage don’t let it dictate the search.
The creation of the initial list should lead to research, visits, and the goal of a better sense of where you will find happiness and success!