Some people make their college choice early, some wait until the mailbox starts filling up, and others follow the aid dollars. But everyone can benefit from a few sage bits of advice. Ten sage bits, to be exact.
Watch the mailbox.
You've probably been thinking about college since freshman year. By junior year you'll start getting a lot of materials from schools. There could be good reasons you're on their list. Find out why.
Do your research.
It's more exciting than any project you've been assigned so far, but exploring your college options can be more intense, too. Reading up in print and online is a must, but asking around is useful, too. Go to college fairs in your area and talk to admission representatives when they visit your school.
Talk to your counselor.
He will help steer you in the right direction (and occasionally steer you away from a dream college). It's his job to help you succeed. Put him to work for you.
Meet with a graduate.
When you find a school that interests you, it becomes easy to talk with someone who went there (alumni love to relive their college days). They can give you valuable insights—and cool stories.
Talk to your favorite teacher.
The things she learned in college made her the teacher you like today. Who knows? Your teacher might have even attended one of the schools you're leaning toward.
Go on campus visits.
There's a right way to do this (and we have a "Ten Things" card for it), and you can learn a lot of things that aren't in print. Get a feel for campus life, the facilities, the professors, and all the things that make a college the right fit.
Do the math.
College is a big investment in your future. But with the proper strategy, it can be done. Remember to look at more than just the price tag—see what scholarships and other sources of funding are available.
Make a list.
Write down your top college choices in order, with your dream college as number one. Now look at the last college on your list and come up with five reasons why it might work out better than number one. Why? Read on.
Prepare for disappointment.
Your first choice might not happen—not right away, at least. Being flexible and dealing with setbacks are great skills to have in college and in the future.
Prepare for excitement.
No matter which college accepts you, it's an amazing feeling. Planning your next steps will be more challenging than the last nine. (And we look at those steps in the box above.)