In April, the hallways are filled with the buzz of seniors talking about their college choices. By now, most students have their acceptance letters in hand and are busy revisiting colleges before making their final decision.

It’s hard to believe that just a year has passed since they started their college search – so many campuses have been visited, so many interviews have been had, and so many essays have been written!

As the junior class embarks on their own college process, we offer these tips to get their college search off to a strong start:

  • The process of finding and applying to the colleges that are the best fits for you takes a considerable amount of time, thought and energy. In the months ahead, your ideas about the “right” college will evolve, your selection criteria will change, and what you most value in your college experience will shift. Give yourself the time and space to consider what is best for you.
  • Commit yourself to working on your college search as if it were an additional class. Set aside time each week for your “college process homework.”
  • Finding the right college involves many steps and even more details. To keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed, set up organizational systems early. Designate a place to store all your college materials. Set up folders in your e-mail account specifically for college-related correspondence. Create file folders to store hard copies of materials and ask for help from a parent or a friend if organization does not come easily or naturally to you. There is so much to do, you won’t want to waste time looking for materials.
  • Go into this process with an open mind. Don’t put too much weight on your preconceptions about a particular college or rely too much on what your peers tell you. Your unique impressions are what matter most.
  • Understand that this year-long process is about more than just “getting in.” It’s a process of self-discovery, values clarification and taking responsibility for yourself. Be sure that you are at the center of the process, not your parents, or you will deny yourself the opportunity to learn these valuable lessons.
  • For most, going away to college marks the beginning of your real independence from your family. Just as leaving home is a big step in your life, so too is it for your parents. Understand that they are going through their own version of the college process and will need time to process just as you will.

Although the road ahead is a long one, getting off to a strong start can set the tone for a successful and rewarding college search experience. Get organized, set aside time to work on your college process, and take advantage of the opportunities to show your emerging independence and self-sufficiency that this process allows and then you, too, will be buzzing with college excitement next April.

Reprinted with permission from Metrowest Daily News