Several months ago I wrote about why hiring a private college admissions counselor makes sense. In fact, over 20% of students in private colleges have used private college admissions counselors. But what about the student that, for whatever reason, decides not to use a private counselor?
Students have two basic options if they don’t use a private counselor. The first option, a relatively new choice, is to use a website that for a few hundred dollars walks you through a series of lessons to help you find a college. One that is being heavily marketed is from a college counselor who charges up to $40,000 for personalized counseling. I have previously discussed why you don’t need to pay that kind of money for good college counseling but does anyone really think that going through some exercises will give you the same result as private counseling? Of course not.
The interesting thing about this approach is that the product is fine, but the same basic information given in the lessons is available from many other sources, most of which are free. Which brings me to my main recommendation if you are not going to use a private college counselor.
Do it yourself. The primary problem with doing the college admissions process your self is that you don’t have experience or background in the topic. So, you need to find people who do have this background who provide free information.
The first option for many students is their high school guidance counselor. Unfortunately, most guidance counselors have many more students than they can possible handle except with very general information. Most guidance counselors also do not have the time to actually visit various college campuses or keep up on the latest information about college admissions. But they can be a start for basic information or questions that you might have.
The second option for many students is to talk to other adults like their parents or teachers to get some advice. Again, the limitation here is that these people often have no more knowledge about the current state of college admissions than you do.
For most students, the best option is to get on the internet and start searching. The thing to be careful with is to make sure that the advice you are reading is actually appropriate advice. So let me make some recommendations as to websites where you can trust what you are reading.
The most obvious, if you are reading this article, is the College Admissions Counseling website. Come on, you didn’t really think I wasn’t going to have you look at my site. With almost 300 pages of information and advice, there isn’t much I haven’t written about. Start with the Info to Know page under Resources to get some basic information about starting the college search. Want more specific information? Use the search box which is found on every page but the home page. Also be sure to check out the Websites link which has links to a variety of great free resources under different categories like General Information, Student Opinions, Standardized Testing and Financial Aid.
Another great resource for college admissions information is College Basics. They also have a large number of articles on most of the topics you will need to consider in finding the right college.
Looking for colleges that meet your requirements? Take a look at the College Navigator site. Another good option for finding a college is at the College Board web page.
By using the resources listed here you should be well on your way to answering many of the most basic questions about the college admissions process. But no matter how good this information is, it is not the same as having an experienced professional giving you personalized advice on finding the best college for you. If you are considering a selective college, it is your best interest to at least investigate a private college admissions counselor. Many counselors will have a free initial consultation to discuss your particular needs.
Whatever your decision on how to proceed, take your time and have fun. Finding the right college for you can make all of the difference in the world.