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The Right Way To Pick a College

"The perfect fit was the exact opposite of what I was looking for," one student proclaimed when admission decisions were rendered, explaining,  "A lot has happened in my personal life and at my small school and I realized I did not want to be in a small community like my current high school."

Rather than repudiate the counseling process, this realization validates it! One of the challenges of working with high school students is that they are just on the verge of stepping into a wider world. Many venture forth timidly, looking for familiar models and at the same list of schools. But  self-realization, understanding personal strengths and finding colleges best suited to develop those attributes, is the potential and should be the goal of college search. Compiling an application list that offers a range of solutions to the applicant's requirements, has breadth (and even a few wildcards) will ensure good options come spring, when the heart is bold and the future comes into focus. 

This website includes links to some of the resources I find most useful in initiating a search: CollegeXpresss, a compendium of lists originally published in College Finder, a book by counseling guru Steve Antonoff, can quickly expand the schools under consideration. CollegeData and CollegeNavigator have reliable stats to realistically assess college selectivity and data for a more in-depth analysis of the school's dynamic and how well it suits the applicant's needs. I have recently added a new website, CostofLearning.com, that will help identify colleges in your price range. It will generate a comparison of college costs with Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as one axis of the graph. First, you must estimate your family’s EFC—the minimum amount that you will be expected to pay toward college costs according to the federal formula (FAFSA)—but this useful tool is another motivation to get that done.

The experiences of current college students can resonate forcefully with those just setting out on this journey, a concept that drives the student bloggers at CollegeData who for a decade have shared their college search and outcomes. Students can compare their own stats with those of the bloggers to assess their chances at a wide range of real colleges and universities and read updates on the students' college experiences. 

Tish O'ConnorTISH O’CONNOR offers comprehensive counseling on college admission and, as a less expensive option, runs application-writing workshops that focus on
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