It is a good idea for high schoolers who plan to attend college to start by making a list of colleges that they would like to attend. Do not wait until senior year to do so, since there is a lot of research involved in narrowing down the list.
One of the factors that affect your college search is affordability. Start by looking into colleges in your home state. Public schools with in-state tuition will be the most affordable. Also look for other states, usually neighboring states that might have reciprocity with your state and might let you pay in-state or reduced out of state tuition for some schools there. The Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP) is an example of one such alliance formed by states like Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Another factor in refining your college search is the consideration of your aptitudes and interests in deciding majors and a career path for yourself. Some high schoolers start their freshman year knowing exactly what their career goals are and what major they want to study in college. But most are clueless even into their senior year and many switch majors even after starting college. If you belong to the latter group, here are some resources that might provide you with some guidance in choosing a major and career path.
- College board
- MyMajors – This offers an assessment for students and can point them in a direction of colleges, majors, and career paths based off of the student’s interests, achievements, and personality
- College Navigator
Websites like USNews and Collegefactual have college rankings and lots of information about each college.
Make sure to include “Safe schools” in your list, which you know you can afford and which you might have better chances of getting into based on your stats like GPA, test scores etc. Once you have a list of colleges, you can make an account in Common App and start figuring out the admission requirements for many of the colleges on your list. You can do this even before senior year.
That’s all I have for now. Good luck with college planning!