Spring of the junior year is when many high school students and families begin their college search.  Everyone approaches the search a bit differently, and there is no shortage of tools and resources to assist your effort.  And yet, we know it can feel overwhelming.  Whether you’re just starting to think about college, or you’ve already spent some time searching, consider the following as you move along your college planning journey.  

High School Tools

Many high schools utilize web-based platforms to help students with their college and career planning (Naviance is a popular solution).  Most likely, your son or daughter is already using one of these online resources to help uncover their interests and skills and how those correlate to a post-secondary path.  Take advantage of this resource.  Besides providing students with an opportunity to learn more about themselves, many of these tools include resume/portfolio building features, college cost calculators, and college search tools within the platform.   

Search Aggregators

As mentioned earlier, there is no shortage of web-based college search aggregators.  One such example is the College Board, which offers a well-rounded, comprehensive search through its Big Future platform.  For a more specialized search, especially given your commitment to saving through Private College 529, we recommend our participating school list, which provides a quick and direct link to all participating Plan colleges.  

College or University Website

No surprise, a place many families go to learn more about a college or university is their website.  Pay special attention to areas of study, internship opportunities, job placement rates, alumni opportunities and of course, projected costs.  You won’t learn everything by visiting the website.  As your build and start to narrow your college list, make sure to take advantage of any opportunities to connect with colleges via virtual or in-person visits, signing up for emails and following on social mediaWatch a college admissions director’s advice on virtually connecting with schools. Also, keep an eye out for any virtual (or in-person) college fairs.  


Other Things to Consider: 

  • Trusted Resources- talk to people you know and trust.  Ask them about their college experience, how they approached the search process, and what they would have done differently.  Insight from those who already went through the process is invaluable.  
  • A Balanced List- with the increase in the number of colleges students are applying to, make sure to stay mindful of your college list mix.  As Tom Bear says in his “Ask the Experts” blog about Building the College List, “ the true driver of success in the admissions process isn’t the number of applications you submit, rather the mix of colleges on your list.” 
  • You Have time– although the search can feel overwhelming, here’s the good news: you have time.  Admissions application cycles are consistent year to year, allowing students flexibility when applying.  And the earliest of these deadlines is October of the senior year.  Use the time now to plan for the application season.   

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