You’re a sophomore in high school, and soon you will hear from teachers, school counselors, parents, or friends about the prospect of going away to college. If you’re considering joining the millions of students who invest in higher education each year, then starting your search now will give you a leg up in the future.
Think about it this way: Is it better to cram for a final exam the night before or start studying weeks in advance? Probably the latter, right? Same idea with your college search. There’s a lot more that goes into it than you think, and it is better to take your time with the process than rush and make a decision you might regret.
So, where should you start? That’s a great question, and to help answer it we asked Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Matthew Stabler to weigh in. Matt is an expert — so let’s hear him out!
How to search for colleges when you are a sophomore high school student:
First things first — figure out finances
Eek! Discussing money with your family can be a little awkward. But it’s probably less awkward than sharing your latest journal entry with them, so there’s that. Stabler said it is important to ask if there are any college savings available and what’s realistic in terms of tuition expenses. Saving money for college can be tough for a lot of families, but it’s never too late to start. After you’re done reading this post, check out the Financial Aid King’s post about “How to save money for college.” This can help you and your family set realistic goals moving forward.
Think about the big picture
Stabler said now is the time to start thinking about your high-level needs and interests. Are you looking for a big state school with major athletic opportunities or a small private college with a bang-up academic reputation? Are you interested in a historically Black college or university (HBCU)? Or a college that focuses on specific programs, such as art, fashion, or theater? Do you want to stay close to home or fly to a different state? Think about the type of college student you want to be and the type of graduate you want to become (taking this quiz can help). Thinking about these things will help you become more focused, weed out colleges that might not offer the right fit, and hone in on schools where you might be happier.
Take college fairs seriously
Mega-college fairs are probably a no-go for the foreseeable future (or at least for the fall of 2020). However, Stabler said that virtual fairs are taking place instead and are a great opportunity for you to learn more about the college search process. Plus, this virtual format allows you to visit more colleges than if it were a traditional college fair. Stabler said to take notes while you’re “there” and don’t be shy about asking questions! At Saint Rose, we have virtual events, offer limited in-person visits, and will participate in many, many virtual college fairs. We hope to see you there!
Buckle down and get involved!
You probably already know this, but colleges look at everything when considering your application. The SAT or ACT isn’t the be-all-and-end-all decision-maker for an admissions team. And, due to the challenges of the pandemic, many colleges are opting to go test-optional. (Saint Rose has been test-optional since 2013.) Stabler said you should focus on other aspects of your academic career, too. Boosting your GPA might give you a better scholarship opportunity. Participating in clubs and activities can supplement your academic performance. At Saint Rose, we consider the whole person who’s applying, not just their numbers.
So, we’ve given you quite a to-do list, but you have plenty of time to do it! You should get started now because before you know it, you are going to visit colleges, fill out applications, file the FAFSA, make your deposit, and go to college! It is important to take these initial steps to make sure you have a solid foundation to work from when the hard work begins.
If you are having trouble getting started with your college search, you can take this College Search Quiz, which will help determine what type of colleges student you will be. From there, you will receive a personalized guide with search tips and advice. Of course, if you have any questions, please reach out to the Saint Rose admissions team. They are here to help in any capacity!