Flickr user Predi

Flickr user Predi

Searching for colleges isn’t always an easy process, especially if you’re not sure of what you’re looking for in a school. Perhaps you don’t know whether you want to attend a private or public college, or maybe you’re caught between staying close to home and going out-of-state. No matter your dilemma, there are fun and productive ways that you can take the headache out of the college search process.

Start Early and Make it a Routine

Even if you do know what you’re looking for in a school, it can take time to weed through your options to make the best choice. To give yourself enough time to do a thorough search, make sure that you start plenty early. In doing so, it is helpful to look at the application deadlines and base your process off of that. If you find that most of the colleges you are interested in have deadlines in December, start planning to do research a few months out ahead of time. To make your search productive, set aside time each week to do research on each school. For example, you may look at schools every Sunday from 2-4 PM. After a few months of doing this, you could potentially have looked into 10-14 colleges without taking a lot of time out of your schedule.

Conduct Thorough Research

It is not enough to simply set aside time to research schools; the research you do should be thorough in order to help yourself make the best choice. For quality research, take a look at the college website as well as online reviews from students, faculty and alumni. Some areas to look into are the cost of attendance, student life, academic programs, housing and dining, student organizations and any other information that answers your remaining questions. It can also be worthwhile to look into the city you would be living in. For example, if you wanted to attend a college in Des Moines, Iowa, it would be a good idea to research the population, quality of life, employment rates, and things to do for fun. This will give you a more complete picture of what your college experience may look like.

Treat it Like a Scavenger Hunt

For those of you who dread doing research or thinking about the future, try making the search process into a game. One way to go about doing this is to make a checklist of what you are looking for in a school and list them in order of priority. For example, your list may look like this:

  1. Scholarship Availability
  2. Ranked Engineering Program
  3. More than 15,000 students
  4. Urban Campus
  5. Quality Student Housing

Then, take this list and put it in an excel sheet or some type of chart. As you sift through colleges, mark which ones best meet the qualifications and rank them in order. Feel free to make it colorful and add in fun pictures! Not only will you have more fun searching for schools, but you will also be one step closer to making your final decision.

Keep an Open Mind

Even if you think you know exactly what type of school you want to attend, if you go into your search process with tunnel vision you may miss out on finding a great fit! Definitely research the schools that you already know you’re interested in, but don’t be afraid to branch out a little bit too. If you feel strongly that you want to attend an in-state University, then be sure to do a lot of research on those options. At the same time, take the opportunity to broaden your scope a little bit and look at smaller in-state schools or out-of-state Universities. You may be surprised at what you find!

To start your college search process, use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools around the US—all for FREE!