How to Navigate the College Search Process

You’ve decided you’d like to attend college after high school, and now it’s time to begin the college search. But with thousands of colleges and universities to choose from, how are you supposed to know which ones to apply to? Well, everything starts with the college search process. 

The college search process includes the steps you will take in defining your interests and goals, researching colleges, and creating a list of target schools. It’s a good idea to begin college planning sometime between your sophomore and junior year of high school.

The search process may seem overwhelming initially, but stay calm because this article will help you navigate the process and identify your ideal colleges. 

How to Start the College Search Process

Open up a Family Conversation

Starting the college search process almost always begins with a conversation about interests, goals, and needs. What careers interest you? What clubs, organizations, or extracurriculars would you like to join during college? Next, you can ask your parents, grandparents, older siblings, and other relatives about their college experiences. 

Additionally, it’s important to talk about money. Does your family have any financial limitations? How will you pay for college? 

For parents reading this article, you may want to consider initiating the conversation. Ask open-ended questions and listen to your child speak about their interests and passions. 

Make a College Wish List

Once you’ve had the opportunity to talk with family members about your interests, goals, and needs, it’s time to make a college wish list. Write down the things you want in your college experience to help you get a better idea. Consider:

  • Academic programs: majors and minors 
  • Clubs, organizations, sports, and other extracurricular activities 
  • Locations
  • School size
  • Learning type: online or in-person
  • Christian college or university

This initial list can be long. It’s okay not to know exactly what you’re looking for in a college. Just write down as many things you can think of, and throughout the college search process, you can refine the list. 

Get Advice from Others

Meet with your school counselor, college advisor, or principal to discuss the college search and options based on your wish list. 

Then you can talk to people who’ve attended college, like relatives, graduates from your high school, teachers, etc. Ask them how they found their school and about their college experiences.

Attend College Fairs

Attending local and virtual college fairs is a great way to search for colleges. Talk to the college representatives about their schools. Make the most out of college fairs by researching the attending colleges in advance and preparing questions for the schools that most interest you. 

You can collect brochures and sign up for college mailing lists during the fair to receive further information. Use our college fair search tool to find Christian college fairs near you. 

Conduct Online Research

Explore colleges online. View college’s websites and search for information about degrees, programs, extracurriculars, etc. Read opinions and stories from current students. Check out the school’s social media accounts and their online newspaper. Some schools may even have virtual campus tours you can take. Use our school search tool to find Christian colleges and universities that match what you are looking for in a school. 

Do College Visits

Once you’ve made a list of some colleges that interest you, it’s time to plan some campus visits. Start by visiting campuses near you to get an idea of what you’re looking for in a college. College visits will allow you to talk to current students, see campus life, and ask questions. 

Redefine Your Wish List

Remember the college wish list you made? After doing research, speaking to college reps, and conducting online and in-person visits, you should be able to narrow down your wish list. 

Now that you have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for in a school, you can list colleges that align with your interests.

Next steps

As you complete the college search process during your sophomore and junior years, you’ll better identify what colleges you want to attend. Then, you can research specific college admissions criteria like the GPA and test scores required to get into each school. 

With this information, you can plan your academics accordingly, so you have better chances of getting in by senior year when it’s time to apply. Before the application periods, you should redefine your college list based on these factors and your financial circumstances. 

Christian College Search

Are you thinking about attending a Christian college or university? Find Your Christian College has tons of resources, tips, and advice to guide you through your Christian college search. You can also order a free copy of THE Guide to Christian Colleges and Universities to assist you in finding your perfect college match! 

Get a FREE college application checklist.