You’ve probably heard this a few times: when preparing for college, the best thing you can do is start early. It seems easy on paper, but the reality of the situation is that planning for college, regardless of how early you start, will be a challenge. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome early on is knowing how to begin the college selection process.
The key to knowing how to start your college search is to know yourself. College should not always be about the most prestigious or selective. College should be for you, and that means that the best college must fit your wants, goals, and needs. Dig deeper, think broadly, and really start to question what makes a learning environment best for you. Here are a few tips to get you started.

What kind of learning environment is right for me?

Do you like big environments full of diverse people and opinions or do you prefer to be a big fish in a little pond? The size of an institution is an important factor for many students, and it should be a question you ask yourself when you begin to think about college. Be open to the unexpected. Maybe you come from a big environment, but you thrive best with a smaller class size.

What ‘type’ of college is best?

There are so many types of college you may not have even realized how many options there are. Obviously, you have your choices of private and public, but what about special focus colleges? Do you feel like a creative person who might want to attend an art college? What about a school that has a religious focus? Did you know that there is a difference between a ‘college’ and a ‘university’? There are also options for colleges with distinct grading platforms. Evergreen College, as an example, allows you to create your own course of study and students receive assessment instead of grades.
Again, stress the type of school you want by looking internally. What is best for you?

What are the cost and financial aid options?

A college education is an invaluable asset, but that doesn’t mean that the cost won’t matter. In the early stages of college planning, you’ll want to talk to your parents about the cost of college and how that affects your final choice. You will also want to research the university’s financial aid packages, merit-based aid, and scholarships. Remember, though: if there is a perfect fit college that seems out of your price range, there are plenty of options that exist to help. We help all of our students when it comes to searching for aid, and we’ve had some students who were awarded scholarship money as early as their freshmen year of high school.

Where do I want to go in life and who might I want to be?

Do you prefer a college experience close to your home and family, or do you want to go somewhere new and experience the unfamiliar? Your first year of college will likely be one the first times you will be on your own in a new environment, and you can decide which location will serve you best. Your interests in a field are also huge factors when it comes to choice. Do you have an interest in art but want to stick close to home? Or maybe you love engineering and MIT’s New England campus is your dream.
To truly know oneself in high school can be a difficult task, especially when there is so much still to learn. If you have considered some of the previously mentioned tips but you are still at a loss, it may be time to communicate with someone. If your parents attended college, talk to them about their experiences. If you have a few colleges in mind but are not sure what to do next—reach out to some alumni if you can and use them as a resource. It might help you to have a mentor or guidance counselor’s advice to sort everything out, this is an area where Parros College Planning can really help you. Remember that college planning should ultimately be an exciting experience–the world is your oyster.