What’s Next?

Whats Next?

Whether you’re a freshman, a junior, or even a senior, college has most likely been this daunting word floating around since your 8th grade graduation. I know that it can feel as though college is either right around the corner or a lifetime away, but it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit lost.

One of the most important things to remember as you start your college search is that you are not alone and there are several resources at SHA here to guide and help you. From the beginning of your time at SHA, Guidance conducts meetings that progressively introduce the college process to you. Sophomore year usually consists of getting to know your likes and interests, the types of classes you want to be taking during high school to prepare you for college, and community service opportunities. Junior year will become a bit more serious as you start to talk with your guidance counselor about what kind of school you can envision yourself at. This is also the time where SATs and ACTs are usually discussed and you will decide which you will take. Of course, with COVID-19 some schools may still be test-optional. Discovering which college is right for you can seem overwhelming, which at times it is, but it can also be an incredibly fun, exciting, and memorable time for you.

Finding the right college requires some research and effort, which, if you’re willing to dedicate time to, will pay off in the end. Personally, most of my college research began the summer of my junior year. Previously, I had some ideas of places I knew just from fellow friends or things I’d seen in the media, but I never took an actual look at their environment or what they had to offer. Before you start to search, think about a few key important things:

  1. Where do I want to be located? Do I like the warm or cold weather? Rural towns or a city? West Coast, East Coast, or somewhere across the world?
  2. Do I want to be at a large or small school? 
  3. Does the school offer activities that I like? (Sports, clubs, etc.)
  4. Is the school affordable for me and my family? Do they provide reasonable financial aid and scholarships?
  5. Is college right for me? Do I see myself at a trade school, community college, or in the military, etc. ?

Asking yourself some of these questions before you start researching can really help you narrow down the schools you look at. However, it is crucial to keep an open mind during this process because what you think you need and like may end up changing.  I know plenty of people who thought they wanted to be far away from home at a private university and ended up loving a close state school. Naviance is a great starting resource that can help you find schools based on these same categories. All of you have or will have a Naviance account. Even if it’s just for half an hour a week, start to look at Naviance and favorite the schools that interest you. Your list will seem long and scary at first, but eventually, you will eliminate or add the schools that seem to really spark your interest. On Naviance there is even a feature that allows you to see the stats of SHA girls who have applied in the past. This may help you determine whether you think this school will be a reach, a target, or a safety.

From Naviance, you can venture out onto the school’s official website. Many offer digital tours or pages dedicated to getting to know the school. See what programs they offer, their demographic, and opportunities they have for someone with your interests. A lot of people may visit a school before they even apply, while others will visit after they’ve been accepted. With COVID-19, tours have been limited, but many schools are offering in-person visits again. These are a great way to get a feel for the campus and discover whether the school is a place for you. A school’s campus may be a deal-breaker for many students, which is perfectly okay. Remember, this is the environment where you will be spending the next 4 years. At the same time, choosing a school solely for its campus and not for any other reason will be hard for you to write about once it comes time for applications.

Once you’ve come up with a good list of schools you might want to apply to, evaluate whether your list has a reasonable balance of reaches, safeties, and targets. Some people may only have safeties on their list while others may only have reaches, which are two common mistakes by students. It’s good to push yourself and see the potential you have by applying to one or two reaches. It’s also good to have a few places and options that you know will accept you. Target schools are usually places that take students with similar credentials to you- it’s not a reach or safety, but it’s a school that you are well equipped to be accepted into while there is no guarantee. Don’t feel pressured to apply to 20 schools, and don’t feel bad if you did. Some students will feel confident applying to just 5 schools while others needed to apply to 15 to feel reassured. At the end of the day, this is your special time and journey- what others do doesn’t mean anything when it comes to you.

A further piece of advice I have is to not get too caught up in numbers when applying to schools or seeing where people have been accepted. Just because a school has a 15% acceptance rate doesn’t make it any better than a school with a 50% acceptance rate. Either school can be challenging, fun, accepting, and enjoyable- it’s all about what makes you happy. No one’s college journey will be the same as yours so try not to compare where you are to your classmates. There will be some girls who apply to school Early Decision and will know where they’re going by December. Don’t feel discouraged if you haven’t even finished your applications by that time. I remember feeling like I had no idea what I was doing when it came to college, but now looking back, things fall in place whether you realize it or not. Those stressful moments of feeling discouraged and unmotivated will come with a time of relief. Most of all, truly listen to what your gut is telling you about schools. You don’t have to go somewhere because your mom wants you to, and you don’t have to go somewhere just because all your friends are. Make these decisions for you, because in the end, that’s who this is all for.