College Shopping – Smart Strategies to Use!

Ready to Go College Shopping?

Are you a junior or senior in high school thinking about going college shopping?  Feeling a little stressed about the best way to start your college search explorations?

Finding Colleges that Meet Your Academic and Personal Needs.

Goal: Meeting Your Academic and Personal Needs.

First of all, before you get too stressed, here are a few questions/issues you need to think about as you prepare to begin your college shopping activities:

  1. Do you want to live on campus or off campus, be a resident or commuter, and how far away from home do you really want to be.
  2. Would you prefer a large, medium, or small college or university campus; rural, suburban, or urban?
  3. Have you investigated each institution’s total cost of education: in-state or out-of-state tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, travel expenses, and incidentals; public or private at 2yr. or 4yr. institution?
  4. What do you really want to pursue as a future occupation or career?
  5. Have you compiled a comprehensive listing of all your skills, talents, and passions?
  6. Have you taken a career interest inventory assessment?
  7. Create, at least, 3 draft essays that you can tweak to tailor fit each admission and scholarship application.
  8. Ask for recommendations early in the process from teachers or administrators who know you and support your college and career goals.
  9. Provide your recommenders with your resume and a list of 2-5 bullet points as to why you are selecting a particular institution(s).
  10. If at all possible, visit the actual college or university campus. If not, then review the College Board’s Campus Visit Guide, use their resources and then plan accordingly.

My Future College Decision Maker

Once you have reviewed the above list of questions, create an Excel/Google spread sheet. Name it “My Future College Decision Maker”, listing all of your choices, short bio info, and key decision factors.  And include your “dream” and “safety” schools as well so you can get a solid overview of your shopping choices.

And don’t be shy…this chart is for your eyes only!


What colleges do I want to attend…and where?

Suggested column headings (See Sample Below) to create your Future College Decision Maker tally sheet include:

Name of Institution
Admission Application Fee (List cost) Fee Waiver Eligible?
Total Cost of Education (List actual costs) Tuition and Fees
Room and Board
Books and Incidentals
Admission Application Requirements:ACT/SAT,
Admission Application Submission (submission  date)Early Action
Early Decision
Regular Admission
Financial Aid Application(submission date)FASFA
State Application
Institutional Application
Private Scholarships
Admission Decision
Financial Aid Received
My Ranking

Sample Decision Maker TallyRemember, the primary purpose for creating this chart is to give you a comprehensive, visual comparison of your choices and assist you in making the best informed decision possible.

Most of all, keep your tally up-to-date. So when it comes time for you to finally make that decision, you’ll have all the information you need to do so located in one, online file document.


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