Ready, Set, Go! How to Begin a College Search

students walk across Knox College campus during the Pumphandle event

For some, the path to their perfect school is easy and straightforward. For others, the process is a bit more convoluted, perhaps even confusing. Whatever path you’re on, I’m here to tell you it will be ok. No one expects students to have all the answers, and there are steps that can help you gain—and maintain—momentum in the journey to find the best college fit.

  1. Take a breath and dream a little.

There is plenty of time to research, plan, apply, and decide. At the beginning, you don’t need to have a lengthy college list, decide on a major, or know what questions to ask at a college fair. Instead, you want to set the foundation for your college search by thinking about what you hope to get out of college and imagining what that experience might look like. Then make the time to discover your options.

  1. Keep an open mind and create a list.

Open the college mail that comes to your house. Read the emails that colleges send you. Attend college fairs, virtually or in person. Look for a phrase, a photo, or a student profile that catches your eye. The school that is the best fit may be one you haven’t heard of yet.

  1. Visit and explore.

Nowadays colleges have a lot of opportunities to interact virtually through tours, information sessions, and videos. Perhaps start there. But keep in mind that you do not have to wait until you’ve applied (or been accepted) to visit a campus in person. In fact, many schools host visit programs specifically for students who are in the early stages of a college search. Learn about these options on college admission websites.

  1. Identify and tap into resources.

Meet with the guidance or college counselor at your school. Talk through the big questions you have now. Ask for additional suggestions for your college list. Ask other college graduates in your life (teachers, coaches, neighbors) about their experiences—what they enjoyed or wished was different. And, don’t forget about admission officers! They can offer great advice on the search process as well as provide insight into their own college’s application process.

No matter when students begin or what unique paths they take, each and every college search can lead to the same destination: finding the best college fit. You’ve got this!

Kimberly Zimmerman
Director of Recruitment and Outreach
Knox College