It’s an exciting time of year! Fall is slowly moving towards winter and that means prospective students and their families are visiting colleges and universities as part of their college search process. Over the month of October, many institutions offered Open House events or other special visit options with a glimpse of their programs, faculty, athletics and student life offerings. If you haven’t started visiting campuses, now is a great time to do so. Meet with an admission counselor, sit in on a class, ask to eat in the dining hall; the key is to gain as much exposure to the campus through a variety of lenses so that you can see if a school may be a good choice for you. It’s about finding the right fit. What do I mean by this? Finding the right fit relates to academic fit, financial fit, geographic fit, and more; but more importantly, it means finding a place where it “feels right,” where you won’t get lost in the crowd, where people will recognize you for your accomplishments (and be there to help when needed). Most importantly it means finding a place where you’ll be happy and successful. When searching for the right fit, utilize organizations like the Consortium of Vermont Colleges (vtcolleges.org) or the College Board (bigfuture.org) where you can search for institutions based on a variety of factors. When visiting campuses, consider asking the following questions: What is the average class size? Do faculty have mandatory office hours? What do students do on the weekends? Do you have study abroad opportunities? This stage in the search process should be geared towards fact finding and focusing on what’s important to you. As you move through the process and start filling out college applications, admissions counselors are wrapping up their busy travel schedules, which typically include visiting high schools and attending college fairs. Don’t be afraid to visit with them at your school or at a fair and ask thoughtful questions and gain insight into each school’s specific process. When working on your application materials, here are a few quick tips: Pay attention to deadlines, always have someone proofread your essay, request copies of your letters of recommendation before they’re sent to Admissions Offices, continue to do well throughout your senior year, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask your admissions counselor questions. They are here to help you in every step of this process, and their service to you should serve as one indicator on how services are provided beyond the admission gates. As you patiently wait for your admission decision letters, be sure to start thinking about the financial aid process and required forms for each college you’re considering. This should be researched right away, with most schools allowing you to formally apply for financial aid after January 1. Don’t forget to ask about merit-based scholarships (academics, community service and leadership involvement), and be sure your application does you justice in outlining all of your accomplishments as you are your best advocate. So as the leaves begin to fall and the winter air greets us, take a deep breath and begin this process with an open mind as you take charge of your future and find the college that’s right for you.
Happy searching and I truly wish you the best as you embark on an amazing and rewarding process.
Jeremy Gibbons serves as the Director of Admissions at Southern Vermont College in Bennington. He is also the President-Elect of the Consortium of Vermont Colleges. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.