The questions start junior year, if not earlier—“Where are you attending college? What will you be studying?” For the average high school student, such inquiries can be overwhelming. Searching for answers can stress them out to the point of being distracted from coursework social life. It might be tempting to treat Spring Break as a much-needed respite from the stress, but a wise student will use the break as an opportunity narrow down their list of schools, thereby eliminating more worry.
Students should begin visiting colleges by at least the spring semester of junior year. Senior year comes with its own set of challenges—do not allow uncertainty over where you will spend the next four years to interfere. By picking a prospective school before your senior year, you will be better able to focus on learning about yourself and your interests and prepare yourself specifically for the school and field of study of your choice, and you will thus maximize your college experience. Start by:
Investigating your areas of interest
College visits can can be great opportunities for travel. Find schools that are located in places that intrigue you—for example, The King’s College is in the heart of Manhattan, if city life is your thing—and turn your Spring Break into a road trip. If your prospective college is not in a place that interests you, you likely will not be excited to spend four or more years there.
Networking with current students
Start identifying the pros and cons of each prospective school, and then make a plan to find out if your perceptions are correct. Make lists of questions for each school you visit, and ask each question more than once, to different people. Current students will provide you with the best answers. Approach a student who does not seem busy, explain who you are and what you want out of college, and ask if you can find it at his or her school. Most students love to discuss the merits and shortcomings of their colleges. Be tasteful and assertive, and make sure to get a wide variety of perspectives.
Connecting with professors
A final point: speak to professors. You will learn a great deal about what it is like to attend that college. Great professors consider persuading prospective students to attend their school part of their job description. If they are excited about their college, they will make the time to tell you why. If they are not excited about it, or if they are just too busy to talk to you, take note. You do not want to study a subject you are deeply invested in with professors who are not invested themselves. Professors are one of the most important components at a school. Ensure they are accomplished—and available.