How to start the college search process

Starting the college search can be intimidating. Not only do you have to choose where you’ll be for the next four years, but you might feel pressured to determine a career path. 

The pressure on high school students to figure all of this out can be massive — but you’re not alone in it. 

At FRANK, we took the initiative to create a guide that will walk you through the college search process, in hopes that it will help ease some of the burdens you feel. 

Step 1: List what you’re looking for in a college

Knowing what colleges to look for is crucial in the college search process. If you’re not sure of where to start, start by asking yourself the following questions. 

  • Campus Life – Are you interested in a “Party” school? Do you look forward to a school with a wide variety of extracurricular activities? 
  • Location – Do you want to stay in your state or go out-of-state?
  • Student body size – Are you looking for big classrooms or something smaller?
  • Academics – What majors are you considering? Do you prefer flexibility?
  • Cost – How much can you afford to pay? Do I qualify for financial aid?

Step 2: Talk with family, friends, and student counselor 

Address essential topics with your loved ones and student counselor. Ask for advice based on their own experience and go over your list from Step 1. 

After discussing your options with the people around you, you might have a clearer vision of what’s important to you. From there, you can start the research process armed with information. 

Step 3: Start your research.

The United States alone has more than 4,000 colleges. Students sometimes feel overwhelmed by this large number. Use the list of what you’re looking for in a college to guide your search. 

You can use sites like CollegeBoard and even College Search here on Frank to get a sense for which schools match your criteria. 

Take advantage of any resources you have available

From searching online to talking to your high school counselor, during the college search process it’s important to take advantage of resources you have at your disposal. Ask questions about the FAFSA® process, understand financial aid packages, learn what programs schools offer to help you adjust, and understand where your grades and academic history might best be served.

If you don’t have access to a high school counselor, reach out to college and ask them for the information you need. Admissions offices are there to help you, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call if you’re confused or unsure if the school offers what you need. 

Sign up for College Fairs

Ask your student counselor and friends about college fairs. Fairs are great places to meet with admissions counselors from colleges and universities across the country. It’s the perfect way to ask your questions face-to-face and get the information you need to make an informed college decision. 

Visit multiple campuses 

If you have some schools in mind, and the resources available, schedule a campus visit. These visits are an excellent opportunity to get a feel of what your life could be on-campus. 

If not all, most colleges will offer campus tours that show what they can offer in terms of campus life and academics. When you go on these tours, be sure to ask yourself, “Do I see myself here?”

If you’re not able to go visit a campus in-person, some colleges and universities offer virtual campus tours and online Q&A’s so that you can still see the campus and get your questions answered.

Step 4: Gather all the information

By step 4, students usually have an idea of which colleges fit their needs. Now that you have concluded your search is time to gather college information. Many students take this opportunity to compare their options and pick their top choices. If this is the route you’re considering, be sure to include each college’s essential deadlines. 

Now that you’re on the right track, you can be compiling an organized list of application due dates and start on your college application process

Starting the college search process is incredibly overwhelming but rewarding. We hope you found this guide useful. Now it’s time to get ready to apply!