You'll be faced with lots of sources of college information when you're considering your educational options, and few are neutral or objective in their opinions. Colleges try to get your attention with glossy brochures, cool Web sites, enticing letters, and free stuff (T-shirts, pens, and other freebies). Parents, family members, and friends sometimes have their own agenda, such as convincing you to attend a university with a known name or to go to a college they attended.
Here are some sources of information and insight about colleges:
- Family members: Family members have a wealth of knowledge and opinions on the subject of where you should go to college. Their advice may be based on personal experiences, rumors, and what they've read or heard in the media. Remember, what is best for one relative may not be best for you.
- Guidance counselors: Your high school guidance counselor can be a valuable ally and resource during the college search process. Most students visit with their counselor and one or both parents in the spring of their junior year, in meetings that generally last one to two periods. Check the resources available in your counselor's office for postings about open houses, visits from college representatives, scholarships, financial aid, and other information.
- Teachers: Teachers can be a wonderful source of information about colleges. Always ask your teachers where they went to school, as you may find an alumnus from a college you are interested in attending. They may tell you about a college you never heard of that might be a viable option for you.
- Friends/peers: Friends and peers are likely to be eager to share what they know or think about different colleges. Siblings of your friends may currently be attending a school you are interested in, and you could attend classes with them when you make a campus visit.
- Visits by college representatives: Some high schools invite admissions counselors from colleges that are popular with their students to visit the high school. You usually need to sign up in advance to attend these sessions, which are very beneficial. You can sometimes meet the person who will be reading your application, so it is a good idea to introduce yourself after the session and let the person know you are interested in their college. You can ask questions in an informal setting and get their contact information, so you can keep in touch with them during the application process.
- Previous graduates from your high school: Previous graduates of your high school often have "the real dirt" about college campuses, as long as you trust the source of the information. Many high schools invite graduates back during winter break to share stories and experiences about their freshman year, which can be very helpful to you. If your high school doesn't do this, you should ask them to consider bringing back grads to share their insights.